Fon Wants Residents of San Francisco's Castro District to Share Their Wi-Fi

“Give to receive” is the mantra of a new initiative by Spanish startup Fon to bring “free” Wi-Fi to the residents of San Francisco’s Castro District.

The plan is the same one tried by Fon elsewhere: the company gives people Wi-Fi routers to install in their homes with the understanding that they will use them to share some of their internet connection with other Fon users (so-called “Foneros”). The routers emit two types of signals: one for private usage and the other for secure access by fellow Foneros. Share some of your own internet connection and your neighbors will share back, effectively expanding the geographic area of the internet access you pay for.

The scheme has recruited over 635,000 users in Europe, Asia and America despite the bans many ISPs place on sharing internet connections. Fon is conducting this San Francisco effort with the support of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and will make money off the program after they stop giving the Wi-Fi routers away for free. If you do end up paying for a Fon router, you’ll have the chance to recoup your money (and maybe make a profit) through the proceeds of FON Access pass sales.

Fon joins Meraki in the attempt to bring widespread Wi-Fi to San Francisco after Google and Earthlink failed to do so themselves. Meraki’s strategy differs from Fon’s in many ways, particularly in its ad-based monetization strategy.