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Wireless Networking Hardware

Corporate Encouragement For Sharing Your WiFi 173

Posted by Zonk
from the everybody-in-the-phone-booth dept.
anagama writes "Conventional wisdom is that one should lockdown wifi, your ISP doesn't want you to share your connection, that person checking email outside the coffee shop ought to be arrested. The UK ISP BT is offering an alternative model. The company will encourage its three million broadband users to pick up a FON router and start sharing signals. 'For BT, the move makes its broadband offering more useful to customers, who can access the Internet from more places, and BT doesn't need to build out a new wireless network itself. BT's Gavin Patterson, a managing director, holds out hopes that the FON scheme can someday "cover every street in Britain." "We are giving our millions of Total Broadband customers a choice and an opportunity," he added in a statement. "If they are prepared to securely share a little of their broadband, they can share the broadband at hundreds of thousands of FON and BT Openzone hotspots today, without paying a penny." '"
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Corporate Encouragement For Sharing Your WiFi

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  • ...but will BT pay for it?

    The only way i see this working would be if organizations were compensated for sharing. Not just "encouraged". It'd be nice to put some of the excess on our fiber circuits to good use.

    • by JamesRose (1062530) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:39PM (#20891499)
      That's the point, BT has BT openzone, so at places like airports BT gives wi-fi access, if you partipate in this scheme, you let people use your broadband, and in return you can use theirs and BT's. It's like communism, but the good kind :P. Of course you can choose not to, and you pay a little to accesss the wi-fi area.
      • by mollymoo (202721)

        Of course you can choose not to, and you pay a little to accesss the wi-fi area.

        A little? You've never seen Openzone's prices, have you? They don't charge a little, they charge a hell of a lot. The minimum spend is £6 ($12), for which you get a whopping 60 minutes of (in my limited experience) 56k-modem speeds and timeouts. So, if you stop for a coffee, check your email and read slashdot for a bit the net access will have cost you three times as much as the coffee.

        • by jZnat (793348) *

          A little? You've never seen Openzone's prices, have you? They don't charge a little, they charge a hell of a lot. The minimum spend is £6 ($12), for which you get a whopping 60 minutes of (in my limited experience) 56k-modem speeds and timeouts. So, if you stop for a coffee, check your email and read slashdot for a bit the net access will have cost you three times as much as the coffee.

          You don't have Starbucks in Britain, do you? That would be about the same price of coffee there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bogtha (906264)

      ...but will BT pay for it?

      Yes. [fon.com] Summary: When somebody accesses the Internet through your connection, they pay for it, and you get half.

      • by tmk (712144)
        You will only get money, if someone buys access at your hotspot. But it's actually less than half the money they receive. And they pay only if you have a earned a certain amount of money. And when a Fonero with free access surfs, you receive nothing. In result nearly nobody ever got any money from FON.
    • by solitas (916005)
      How much compensation will they get when someone anonymously uses their IP to text/chat/email/etc. a threat to the gov't? Or starts a virus/worm/etc.? DDoS?
  • by mjensen (118105) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:20PM (#20891347) Journal
    From the article, FON is charging the extra users. It's extra revenue for them. The extra users aren't getting on for free.
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      I think the point is not to get on for free, but to get on from anywhere they happen to be standing. If you share yours, and they share theirs, FON can make lots of money by having access points everywhere without paying a penny, and call it 'sharing' with each other.
      • by SnoopJeDi (859765)
        You sound upset as if this is some kind of under-handed method destroying all we know and love.

        In fact, this is potentially an answer to the cost problems in setting up large-scale wireless access that have been featured here on /. recently. Sure, it's not exactly what people are looking for, but it's a step towards a larger infrastructure, I suppose.
    • by larry bagina (561269) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:36PM (#20891479) Journal
      how do you read that?

      Other "Foneros" can access the public channel for free, while non-Foneros can pay a few dollars a day to use the access points.

      "If they are prepared to securely share a little of their broadband, they can share the broadband at hundreds of thousands of FON and BT Openzone hotspots today, without paying a penny."

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        Such a good idea. The few dollars a day for non subscribers as well. Wifi is incredibly unreasonably priced. I'd love to have Internet at the airport but I just looked up a couple of the local competitors. Rogers offers 15 cents a minute or ninety minutes per month for $4 (10 cents a minute after that). That's if you're already a cell subscriber with them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Buelldozer (713671)
      Whaaaa? How did this get modded insightful?

      Fon has three types of users: Linux, Bill, and Alien. If you sign up as a Linux and share your wifi you get free wifi at any other Fon access point.

      If you are a Bill you make a bit of money when another Bill or Alien, logs onto your Fon access point. Conversely if you roam onto another Fon AP you are expected to pay at a reduced rate.

      An Alien is anyone who is not part of the Fon network. They can still access any Fon AP but they have to pay to do it.

      My point is tha
      • by s7uar7 (746699)
        The way it works has changed since you last checked. You can now be a Bill - getting paid for people who access your network - and access other FON APs for free.
      • Are those actually the names they use? That's great.
    • by MikeFM (12491)
      I have a FON AP and access is free for anyone although they need a FON account to use it.
  • Uh... security anyone?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EriDay (679359)
      FON authenticates its users.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MikeFM (12491)
      That's why we invented ssl, ssh, etc. AP security is mostly an illusion anyway and at least IMO it should not be allowed as it's hijacking a scarce public resource (the frequency being used) and making it into a private resource. Very annoying if you live in a crowded area where everyone is trying to run their own little AP and it's to congested to work well and you can't share because they are all locked.
    • Overrated. Unless, I guess, you hack into my bank account, but you really don't need to be hacked into my network to do that.
  • This is a very cool solution that has been proposed by many community based wifi projects. That BT would endorse an organic approach like this is very open minded. Let's hope that internal politics doesn't commit this idea to the "let's outsource this for study" meeting whores, effectively shelving it.
    • by IndieKid (1061106)
      Well, it's definitely happening, very shortly. BT are my ISP and I signed up on Friday, apparently my router will receive a firmware update today, automatically and I've already used the free access at an Openzone (BT's wireless service) hotspot.
  • by turnipsatemybaby (648996) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:26PM (#20891403)
    I can think of no simpler way to implement a city-wide free wifi system than a grassroots method such as this. Not only is the up front cost relatively inexpensive per user, it's distributed across thousands of people who can take part if/when they see fit, and it's much easier for individual people to maintain than a central authority.

    Not only that, you would have the redundancy of having multiple choices of APs in a given area, so if one goes down for whatever reason, you can still choose another.

    It's almost like the equivalent of swarm intelligence, but applied to wifi.
    • Even better, how about roaming?

      You don't ever want to have to stay in JUST ONE coffee shop just because SP3 is downloading.

    • by maxume (22995)
      What do you do about areas where no one pitches in?
      • I think that's the problem. I don't think it's a good idea to have your competitor's consumer connection be the backhaul, that's kind of predatory anyway. Not only that, the competitor can knock you out of service once they crack down on people that are "sharing" connections to a competitor's mesh.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      Apart from the obvious security concerns of having unknown software sniffing packets, etc. Even encrypted traffic can be intercepted by substitution of keys. At least with a known provider there are regulations regarding what can and can not happen.
    • Given the somewhat limited choices in my area I was, during a very frustrating 2 weeks where both my home and work ISP's were struggling, considering what it would take to start "my own" ISP.

      Get a T1 or T3, use a wireless mesh to spread it, everyone's happy.

      Unfortunately, although I don't know it to be fact, I think both my work ISP (DSL) and my home (cable) ultimately use shoddy ATT copper which was the root cause of both ISP's to be intermittent for that 2 week period. So, if I were to get a T3 it w
  • by siddesu (698447) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:27PM (#20891415)
    damned bleeding heart pirate and crime promoters, these telcos, how dare they muddy the waters of evidence-gathering against all those copyright-thieving artist-income-depriving file-sharing child-porn distributing criminals?
  • by olden (772043) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:29PM (#20891431)
    Some providers in the US also try/tried that, starting as early as 2003, and usually hoping that non-customers would pay $$ to access their network through such user-provided "open" wi-fi APs. I don't think this worked overly well so far though...
    http://www.sonic.net/hotspots/ [sonic.net]
    http://www.speakeasy.net/netshare/learnmore/ [speakeasy.net]
  • Quite an astounding suggestion bearing in mind it's coming from BT. It seems to make good sense to me.
    • BT research does a lot of interesting work. They have a group doing some particularly fascinating stuff with emergent properties of networks of simple systems, which is likely to be quite applicable here.
    • by s7uar7 (746699)
      BT employs people with the coolest job title I've ever come across, Futurologist [btinternet.com], so if anyone was going to do it, it would be them.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      BT has consitently been on the side of the consumer, but the telecomms regulator (ofcom) frequently steps in to stop BT "abusing" (their words not mine) its position.
  • makes me think there should be a catch. what if your line eventually became saturated by the traffic from the wifi router (if you are located in some popular place), wouldn't you think of upgrading your connection plan?
    • by s7uar7 (746699)
      People accessing your network are limited to a total of 512kbps down; I'm not sure what the upstream is limited to (if at all), but that could be a problem as we only get 448kbits.
  • RIAA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:47PM (#20891551) Homepage Journal
    Must be screaming in pain now.. Even less of a way to determine who downloaded/uploaded something that is *isp sponsored*.

    Cool.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Not really. If you'd R'dTFA[1] you would know that you still need to log on to the network to use it, and have an account with them. They still log exactly who is doing what and where.

      They also allocate 512KB more bandwidth to your link while other people are using it, and only allow the other people to use this, which is quite neat.


      [1] In my defence, I did this before it was on /. and so wasn't aware I was breaking the rules.

      • by nurb432 (527695)
        That should have been in the summary as that wasnt the impression it was giving.

        Well, my wifi is still wide open.
      • by ewhenn (647989)

        They also allocate 512KB more bandwidth to your link while other people are using it, and only allow the other people to use this, which is quite neat.

        Your bandwidth is limited by your provisioning file. To change the bandwidth you need to get a new Prov. file. To get a new provisioning file, you need to reboot your modem.

        Yeah, just what I want, my modem randomly rebooting to fuck with my bandwidth caps when I'm downloading something or playing a game. Thanks, but no thanks BT.

        • From how I read the article, it sounded like you would plug one of these boxes in in place of an existing modem. You would then get another 512KB of bandwidth allotted, but only the VPN would a allowed to make use of this.
      • They also allocate 512KB more bandwidth to your link while other people are using it
        i.e. they artificialy limit you to 512KB less than your link could do, and use this for other people.
  • The problem with this system idea is, under current UK law, if you park your car / walk past a persons home and piggy-back off their Wi-Fi signal, you could be arrested and charged for theft of bandwidth under some weird Communications Act. Now of you have these access points, how would an ordinary (usually incompetent) policeman know it is being used by people not "stealing"? Or someone could put up a logo of the scheme outside a home and then point the police that they are not stealing bandwidth - when th
    • by janrinok (846318)
      No, there is a big difference between the two. The situation that you describe is where someone uses a network to which he has no authorisation, without obtaining permission. That is illegal in the UK. The situation in TFA is where you have an account with BT and are authorised to use any access point which is part of the system. If you can log on, you have a user name and password, and therefore are authorised. You are paying to be a member of the network but you are free to choose which access point y
      • by pjt33 (739471)
        A driver's licence is a standardised form of documentation. How many policemen do you think will be able to verify whether I'm telling the truth when I say that I have a username and password? In particular, if I'm using Linux, how many will be able to work out where to look? And what's to stop me from faking the interface?
        • by janrinok (846318)
          Nothing, but what is to stop you from faking your driving licence?
          • by pjt33 (739471)
            Apart from lack of inclination, at least the following:
            • The necessity of doing a good job, because as I said previously it's standardised, which means that people who handle a lot of them will subconsciously notice if it isn't a good job.
            • Following on from that, the expense and difficulty. I don't have paper stock with a DVLA watermark or equipment for making it. I haven't a clue how I'd achieve the effect of the gold lettering on the card.
            • I suspect that if you take your licence to the police station they
    • Now of you have these access points, how would an ordinary (usually incompetent) policeman know it is being used by people not "stealing"? Or someone could put up a logo of the scheme outside a home and then point the police that they are not stealing bandwidth - when they actually are. Who's going to know?

      Is it BT's business to make the police's job easier?

      As it stands, the assumption is that an open wireless network is not an invitation to use it freely. Hence the recent decision. If BT fill the count

      • Is there any protocol to explain which is which? I've just set up a wireless network, which is deliberately open, and I'm happy for people to make reasonable use of this. These days, I'd expect that anyone who has an open wifi network is leaving it open deliberately (and the burden of proof would be on the other side).

        Obviously, we don't trust the "inside" of our network, but as well as providing a public service, some plausible deniability is useful :-)
  • Not only in the UK (Score:2, Interesting)

    by msmikkol (155023)
    Wippies in Finland (http://www.wippies.com/) is doing a similar thing. They give a free WiFi box (among other things) to users who operate an access point and share their broadband connection with other Wippies members.
  • So lets see.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SirLurksAlot (1169039) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:55PM (#20891605)
    You share your bandwidth with someone else and the ISP pockets a little extra money if that someone doesn't happen to be a current customer? Yes, according to the article the other users will be on a different channel, so your service isn't interrupted, but no matter how you look at it you're still splitting your pipe. Also, since this scheme involves a new customer paying for access on your (already paid for) connection why not apply the extra money as a credit on your bill? I'm paying a pretty good chunk on my broadband (Time Warner), but I wouldn't mind this setup if it meant my bill was going to be lower.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      but no matter how you look at it you're still splitting your pipe

      No you're not. That's the entire point of this system. When other people are connected, BT (who own almost all of the ADSL infrastructure in the UK, including the last mile) will allocate another 512KB of bandwidth to your connection. This will then be split between the other people who are using your connection.

      I just had a quick look at TFA, and apparently it wasn't the same article I read earlier today detailing this scheme, which made no mention of FON but did explain the extra bandwidth provisio

      • by s7uar7 (746699)
        No, that's not the case. They limit the shared bandwidth to 512kbps and prioritise your traffic, but that comes out of your downstream connection. Consumer ADSL lines are mostly already provisioned at the highest bandwidth the line will support.
        • Really? What country are you talking about? Here in the US, the telco won't sell me more than 6Mbps when the line can handle 8. And many people opt for the slower, cheaper connections going down to 768kbps. I'd be very surprised if more than 2% of the customers were within 512kbps of the line capacity.
          • by s7uar7 (746699)
            ADSL in the UK is sold as 'Up to 8Mbps' and the rate is adapted automatically to whatever the line will stably handle. It wouldn't therefore be possible to burst up an extra 512Kbps as the connection would start dropping out.
      • by jrumney (197329)

        BT (who own almost all of the ADSL infrastructure in the UK, including the last mile)

        I wouldn't be surprised if BT own less than half the ADSL infrastructure in the UK now. Sky/Easynet, AOL, Tiscali/Pipex, Carphone Warehouse, Be, C&W/Bulldog and Orange all have their own LLU infrastructure in a significant number of exchanges, starting with the busiest ones of course.

        • by IndieKid (1061106)
          It's kind of a moot point, as BT Total Broadband customers (the ones who can sign up for this service) must be on BT infrastructure.

          Also, exchanges in cities are the ones most likely to have been through LLU as I understand it (and as you imply). Cities are the places most likely to already have Wi-Fi coverage, so the fact that you're likely to get more BT customers out in the countryside where there it's less likely you'll find a standard hotspot would seem to another benefit of the scheme.
  • BT's FAQ (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jacco de Leeuw (4646) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @06:14PM (#20891717) Homepage
    As posted on the FON blog [fon.com]:

    Q:If I am a Fonero and have BT do I need to sign up?
    A: Yes

    Q:I am a Fonero but not a BT customer, can I access BT Fonspots?
    A:Yes, all Foneros can use BT Fon Hotsposts and vice versa

    Q:I am a Fonero but not a BT customer, can I use BT Openzone hotspots.
    A: No, but if you had BT Total broadband then Yes.

    So, FON users still do NOT have free access to BT's commercial hotspots ("BT Openzone") UNLESS they are also paying BT broadband customers ("BT Total"). Bummer. The only thing new here is that a major ISP does not mind (and in fact encourages) the use of FON routers.
  • Anti-RIAA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @06:15PM (#20891723)
    Talk about the perfect excuse that it wasn't me sharing music over my WiFi router. It was someone else -- and BT make it all possible. Certainly an RIAA nightmare in the making.
    • by janrinok (846318)
      No, to use the system you still have to log on with a username and password. They will know who is downloading what. How does that make sharing any different from what exists today?
  • by j0nb0y (107699)
    Amazing. A telecom with vision. That's completely unheard of over here in the states. The only thing our telecoms can envision is the almighty dollar.
  • by hack slash (1064002) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @06:59PM (#20891977)
    If you do sign up to the scheme then:

    1) with the ever growing list of people getting done for illegal activity, ie downloading mp3s/illegal porn/'hacking' etc., will you be exempt from any charges relating to criminal activity through someone using your router?

    2) is the broadband service provided truly unlimited?

    I can't see many people in their right minds signing up to such a service if they weren't protected from neighbours doing heavy downloading and the drive-by wifi'ers downloading stuff deemed illegal. Because on one end of the scale I wouldn't want additional charges for bandwidth use or have the speed restricted due to too someone else using it too much, and the other end I wouldn't want to be arrested because someone else used my internet connection through the wifi router for criminal activities.
  • WiFi sharers should have official legal immunity. What if someone uses a community WiFi signal to do something that attracts the attention of NSA et al? Sharers should coordinate to encourage new laws protecting people who share connections. The owner of a connection should NOT be held liable for the actions of others through their connection that are being done without their knowledge.
  • that's one down. Now if we can just get Comcast to go for it ...
  • by cheros (223479) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @08:22PM (#20892605)
    I got that FON adaptor with a Skype phone, and it took me all of 30 seconds to decide not to install it.

    Given the current security climate I'm really not going to give someone a chance to (a) identify where I live and if I'm around (look at their status info on the web - having an access point means you've got kit to steal) and (b) to put a remote controlled listening device on my traffic. The FON adaptor is a small Linux box, and I don't know what it does. Worse, someone else controls it and can flash the thing at any time.

    Nope. Not interested in contributing to an 802.11 version of Echelon :-).
  • by wellingj (1030460) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @08:26PM (#20892637)
    Why do we need a teloco to allow us to do this? DIY is always better. [meraki.com]
  • that I'm sure Verizon will be all over it.

    Would someone notify company officials that I have commenced holding my breath?
  • Am I the only one that doesn't want other, unknown pc's on my network?

    I mean, one of the nice aspects of having NAT and a "firewall" is additional security on your network. Now we are expected to let strangers with god knows what on their PC's connect to our networks and poke at our "special" ports.

    I for one don't share my special ports with just anyone.

    Of course for the really paranoid you can put a nat between your wifi router and the rest of your network, but that just seems to be a bit much.
  • I knew I'd read something about the FON network before, The Register covered a story about FON users protesting about anyone being able to have 15 minutes of free access through their router without having to sign up to the service:

    June 29 2007 - Fon VoIP network being disrupted by protest over Wi-Fi adverts [theregister.co.uk]

    And there's still a heap of wifi users who have hidden their router in a lake [fon.com]

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