An impressive milestone for Madrid-based wifi sharing network Fon, which counts eBay and Google among its investors: It’s hit a million users in more than 150 countries, and boasts more than 400,000 wifi hotspots in the world — including several in New York City.
But now Fon — whose members share part of their home broadband connections in exchange for access to other networks, or for a small bit of money — might have a new problem, which could potentially limit its growth in the U.S.: Broadband providers are starting to limit how much bandwidth their subscribers can use from their “unlimited” monthly subscriptions, which could make people more reluctant to share their Internet access.
Comcast, for instance, is putting a relatively generous 250-gigabyte cap on its subscribers’ plans, but is also threatening to slow down users’ connections if they’re downloading too much stuff. Other providers, meanwhile, are testing much lower monthly caps, including steep overage charges.
This isn’t a life-threatening problem for Fon today, which probably does most of its business abroad. And it’s possible that ISPs will change course, pop open their pipes, and tell their subscribers to go nuts.
But the way things are heading probably won’t help Fon in the U.S.: As residential Internet providers start imposing caps and overage charges, who wants to share their precious broadband connection with strangers — and potentially pay extra for their downloads?
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