Not a great start for FON

by Mathew on February 6, 2006 · 2 comments

Well, the FON network has $22-million or so from Google, Skype and Index Ventures, but it might have a bit of a credibility problem as well, after reports from one U.S. Internet service provider that contradicted what founder Martin Varsavsky said when he announced the deal. He said the company has the support of Speakeasy, a large ISP — but Glenn Fleishman of Wi-Fi Networking News says that he got a message from the ISP saying that isn’t the case.

Looking at what Mr. Varsavsky said on his blog, he referred to being “pleased to announce today that we have obtained the support of two significant ISPs for FON. In America, Speakeasy has said that they welcome FON and in Europe, Glocalnet and FON have signed an agreement.” While he doesn’t specifically say that FON has a deal or has signed anything with Speakeasy, he makes it sound as though the company has pledged its support in some fashion.

According to Glenn, Speakeasy said that it supports sharing of Wi-Fi (one of the few ISPs that does) but that doesn’t mean it supports FON. In fact, the company says that FON’s plan sounds like something Speakeasy came up with in 2003 called NetShare, which also involved revenue sharing with those who allowed others to use their wireless connection. Although Speakeasy says it has reconsidered its initial plan to take legal action against FON for the statements, it is obviously less than pleased.

Needless to say, this kind of thing doesn’t bode well for the success of FON. It’s possible that Mr. Varsavsky misspoke, or that he was over-eager, and wanted to show more support than his company actually had. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t look good to be claiming relationships you don’t have when you are trying to get something as ambitious as FON off the ground – and I would argue that it’s not likely to help other ISPs feel particularly comfortable about negotiating deals with the company either.

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