As with most things wireless and new, I jumped on FON when I first saw it. When they offered a discounted Linksys router, I signed up.
That was February 8th. On the 20th, I got the opportunity to actually order the thing. It shipped on March 9th, and finally arrived yesterday, March 20th. Alas, they're a startup, with minimal US operations.
Anyway, the out of box experience was pretty good. I plugged it in as the 1-page flier suggested to do, and registered the device using my FON account. Immediately, it started offering FON-authenticated wireless service. Not bad.
However, it didn't come with any documentation on how to make other changes or customizations. I had to figure out that you had to use the LAN ports, and that would give you a shot at tweaking the internals of the beast. FON routers, currently, are DD-WRT-based (itself based on OpenWRT). In other words, they're a customized open Linux "firmware", a replacement for the stock Linksys behaviors.
FON has the basic experience right. I can share my internet using the device. It forces anyone who's using it to have a FON account, or, I can give out local accounts. In any case, just as with most for-pay wireless in coffee shops and airports and the like, you have to offer some sort of credential to it before you can connect. In the long run, they have a plan for revenue sharing, and/or bandwidth sharing, to encourage people to deploy FON-enabled stuff more aggressively.
It does have a few rough spots. Though the shipped router works out of the box, it had no process (or documentation) for local user usage. Eventually, a user will only be able to log in a discrete number of times, meaning that just buying a FON router for home use can get complicated - do all of the other members of your household have to pay to use your connection?
Also, there are still rough edges. At the moment, there's no rate-limiting controls, so there's no way to "share" your connection but not "give up total control, and be at the mercy of the abusive downloader next store". The Linksys box can be convinced to do this, so I'm sure it will show up as a feature as the beta process roles along.
Worse, you currently seem to have to re-login each time you reconnect to the wireless. For those of us with laptops that sleep/resume quickly (cough Apple cough), this can be a hassle, since we're used to just closing the lid on our laptop for a few minutes between tasks. Having services disconnect and forcing a re-login cycle on any user, local or guest, isn't really necessary.... unless they're a paying user and just went over their time-unit rollover and have to pay again.
I'd also really like to see FON push into the mesh/overlay network space. If there's continuous FON connectivity down my block, why should my device have to be smart about roaming/reconnecting as it goes? Ideally, there'd be some approximation of a unified network across different pools of connectivity. This will become more of an issue as there are more places where there is continuous connectivity, and people start doing things like roaming around with their Wifi VoIP phones. And that day, for the Bay Area, might be coming sometime this year...
Update: here's a coverage map for the FON network in my area. Quite a few dots. Oddly, the dot for my access point is about a mile from where it should be. FON map
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