If this were a live FonBar, you would log in to the hotspot through the form above.

Meeting Ex-Foneros

or “I See Dead Foneros”

This is a digest of the thread I started in Fon’s English Board.

There are about 102 Fon hotspots within the Austin, TX metro area. I recently noticed that nearly every Fon hotspot in the south side of the city is now dead, so on Saturday, 9/20 I took a bike tour of dead hotspots to see if I could lend some assistance, or aquire some unwanted routers:

(Click image for full size popup)

I really wanted to do this earlier, but it has been an unbearably hot summer in ATX. I made it a priority when I saw the sudden loss of so many hotspots at once. There is another cluster of dead hotspots I could visit across the freeway East of me, but those are mostly apartments with transient students. Probably not worth the effort. I did not bring a laptop or wifi detector with me. Perhaps I will survey the remaining live hotspots another time.

Half of the hotspot profiles from Fon’s Maps displayed “kasdfgdflkasdf” addresses, or had valid addresses which should not have placed them on this side of town. These were skipped, of course.

Two hotspots were at apartment buildings, and one person was not at home, but I left fliers for them to contact me. The apartment dwellers hadn’t actually indicated their door numbers, so I left the fliers on public bulletin boards. They haven’t gotten in touch with me in 7 days, so I don’t think they ever will.

I did meet 3 very nice people, and had chats with them about Fon. All of the Foneros needed a moment to remember what “a Fon hotspot” was when I asked them about it. I let them know immediately that I was not a Company Representative, just a neighbor. This made them visibly less apprehensive. 😀

My closest Fonero neighbor never used wifi, but had left her router plugged in. She didn’t know it was dead. It needed to be reset, and the hotspot came back on the map. Today, I noticed that her hotspot is dead again, and it’s position on the map has been moved well away from her house. Her address has also been erased from the profile. It appears that she doesn’t want to meet any more Foneros. 🙁

One man said that he unplugged his router because no Aliens ever visited it, and his girlfriend no longer needed it for her laptop. He said it was now in storage, but he would consider passing it on if he found it. He also believed that it was causing some kind of conflict with his LAN, but wasn’t able to recall further details. They now have a U-Verse DSL modem with integrated wifi.

The other man said that someone was leeching so much bandwidth from him, that he had to pull the cord. He had forgotten where the router was, if he still had it, but promised to pass it on if it turned up.

The two men who intentionally quit had totally opposite reasons; hotspot used too much / hotspot not visited at all, so i’m not sure what facts i’ve nailed down for the purposes of my brief investigation. Overall, Foneros simply lose interest in Fon and can quit without feeling like they have lost anything. Nor are there any consequences – in fact, they may feel more secure with the Fon hotspot shut down.

Fon still counts them as active members, unless they email unsubscribe@fon.com, of course. Fon makes money selling merchandise and has a small side business reselling access to other people’s ISP service. I suspect Fon rarely, if ever, refunds money or subtracts dead hotspots and quitted members from their census, so there is little consequence for them, either.

I left everyone my name, phone number and email address. Interestingly, all three of the people I met happened to be DSL customers, and used Macintoshes.

So here’s the results of my investigation:

  • Total Fon hotspots in Austin, TX: about 102 (per Yoshida’s Fon Map)
  • Total active Fon hotspots in ATX: about 14 (per Fon Maps 9/28)
  • Fon hotspots visited: 6
  • Foneros met: 3
  • Assistance provided: 1
  • Routers aquired: 0
  • Net Foneros reactivated: 0

I’ve tried messaging Foneros through the Fon Maps feature, but this does no good because it is not forwarded to their email. It just goes to their “My Fon” bulletin board, which they never see if they have given up on Fon and never log in again.

I’m not sure where to take this forward from here. I could ask my readers what Fon could do to win Foneros back, but why should Fon bother? Fon has their clever numbers, and reserve the right to invent clever definitions. Fon has been maintaining convienient untruths, and probably don’t have the initiative to come clean now. Besides, with Fon in their spam-filters, or free email addresses abandoned, dead Foneros will never receive another ping from the Movement they left behind. The Press won’t even touch Fon now.

I could ask what Foneros could do to win Foneros back, but I don’t want to encourage a gestapo movement, knocking on doors and demanding explanations. I don’t think anyone was upset that I visited them, but there was a moment each time, where I thought I saw them thinking “oh no, I was afraid this would happen”. Noone was interested in rejoining the scene. They were polite, but pointedly disengaged from the subject. The routers were “somewhere, perhaps”, but while noone wanted to use them, neither did they wish to release them.

Possibly, leaders in various cities could publicise campaigns to collect unwanted routers for redistribution, but again, Fon dare not admit that they have any churn or waning momentum. I will redistribute any routers I may eventually collect, but I don’t have the resources to start or maintain anything formal. Perhaps if it was a paid position, I could make it a part-time job on the weekends, eh? 😉

I look forward to your comments.

0 Responses to Meeting Ex-Foneros

  1. WiFi Romania says:

    I’m the editor of a Romanian Blog that was ment to connect together all Romanian Foneros and WIFI users. But, no success. People won’t give a damn about FON unless they are made to do this. A great branding campaign could make Foneros turn on their Fonera routers. FON started to suck lately.

  2. PJMDS says:

    Even the boss stopped blogging about FON, he’s more interested in politics right now, no time for small things like FON, maybe he silently sold the company or passed it to someone else ?!

  3. austintx says:

    Yes, i’ve noticed how much attention Martin has been giving to American politics lately. It comes just at a time when Americans have heard enough and are ignoring it. 😀 He hasn’t shown much new insight, just some bland admonishments.

    Fon has been telling us for months (over a year, really) that there are lots of exciting things going on behind the scenes, and will appear Any Day Now. Things like Mexican Wave, Link Sortener, Fonosferatu…. Beta Test reboot x3, La Fonera 2.0, Official Fon Wiki Finally…. and we’re running out of gas waiting.

    I haven’t written about much of these things because if it isn’t about wifi, i’m not going to direct traffic to off-topic ads for Martin’s side projects. Sometimes I wonder if Martin isn’t blogging about a thing, just because he wants feed-lists to connect his name to the topic.

  4. Ricardo says:

    i became a fonero after discovered Martin’s blog. Since he started just repeating what the liberal american press is saying, without even checking the facts, i decided to turn to Meraki for my WIFI projects and forget Martin and Fon. I’m sure he lost some millions in all this financial turbulence that is why so focus in the american politics.