I must confess, the news about FON's new deal with Time Warner took me completely by surprise.
The first time I heard about FON was on Ethan Zuckerman's blog. Although I have no idea where that portion of my email archives have gone, I am reasonably sure I started an email conversation with Mr. Varsavsky about FON and the United States. While I thought that the idea (join up and open your wireless access point to other FONeros or the world; receive reciprocal connectivity on other FON access points) was a good one, and could very well succeed in Europe, I was convinced that as soon as it became popular in the United States, the large cable companies (i.e. Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon - which is not actually a DSL company) that control many of the residental broadband connections would crush the FONeros for violating their Terms of Service. If I remember correctly (in my defense, it was more than a year ago), Mr. Varsavsky thought this would not happen. I did not believe him at the time, convinced that the DSL/cable cartels would never let people share their Internet connections.
The last time I remember hearing about FON was at work, when a freshman brought it up as interesting. While I was impressed both at the fact that he knew what FON was, and in that he had enlightened opinions about why they were a good idea. Despite this, I still told him that it would never come to fruition in the United States. That night, I looked at the map of FON access points in the Cambridge area. While I was surprised that there were so many, I dismissed the idea that FON was slowly becoming popular.
Clearly, I owe both Mr. Varsavsky and the anonymous freshman apologies. While FON is still not as well-known as, say, the iPod, it does seem like it is still on the upswing. Although I am certain that there are many more hurdles for the company to overcome (one that comes to mind is the possible legal consequences of having an open access point on your home network), I now feel that it is more likely that FON will be able to surmount them.