FreedomPop Preps Open Wi-Fi, Launches Free Home Internet Challenging ISPs

Source Forbes

Getting hosed by your Internet service provider may seem as inevitable as death and taxes, but a new startup aims to change that.

Startup FreedomPOP, which is backed by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, DCM and Mangrove Capital, provides cheaper Internet access and the ability for people to share access with others on its network. In exchange, they get credits on its network. The company has the potential to be as disruptive to the broadband industry as Skype is to voice. The company has a service for sharing and receiving mobile Internet access through its iPod Touch cases (iPhone coming soon). The $99 cases run on WiMAX and turn an iPod touch into an Internet device. There’s also a 4G mi-fi router and a 4G USB dongle for laptops. Almost 40% of users earn some amount of free credits on FreedomPOP.

FreedomPOP also plans to release a new “open Wi-Fi” local-sharing Internet service through its devices, CEO Stephen Stokols exclusively told FORBES. This new feature will enable FreedomPOP devices to share their broadband access to others nearby by using two SSIDs. This is in addition to people sharing their Internet access virtually to anyone on the network.  When FreedomPOP turns this feature on through a software update, anyone nearby can log onto that broadband device through one of the SSIDs.

Stokols believes this service will disrupt others such as FON, another free Wi-Fi startup. That’s because FON cuts deals with large telecommunications providers such as BT, while FreedomPOP doesn’t need to. FON users do not share the majority of their access, because they are home users where others in residential areas do not need access as much, he says. But FreedomPOP users can share their access in any public place. FreedomPOP could also be disruptive to others such as Boingo Wireless, because why would people pay high fees for Internet access at the airport when they can get free (or nearly free) access through FreedomPOP?

FreedomPOP is now also entering the home market, with a free home broadband product calledFreedomPOP Hub Burst that uses Clearwire WiMax, the company is announcing today. FreedomPOP is now accepting orders and expects to ship its home modem next month. The service is faster than DSL but slower than cable. Stokols says the service will disrupt incumbents likeTime Warner CableAT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Users get free service of 1 gigabyte per month but they can “earn” unlimited free access by adding friends to their network or participating in partner promotional offers. That amount of data is fine for 70% of users, says Stokols, the former CEO of digital video company Woo Media and vice president at British Telecom.

The service is designed for people who do not use a massive amount of data–that is, don’t stream Netflix or other video–but mostly use email or other “lighter” services. For users who want more data, they can pay $10 per month, which is still much cheaper than a typical $50 from DSL or cable. Or they can pay as they go, like Skype credits. The thinking behind this service is that many companies such as Comcast charge consumers $50 per month for Internet access when they use just a fraction of their service. Instead consumers should pay much less, Stokols says.

Why share your Wi-Fi? If you can share (or rent) your house or car oncollaborative consumption sites like Airbnb, RelayRides or Getaround, why not share some of your Wi-Fi access in exchange for more access?

Launched about two months ago, FreedomPOP hit cash flow positive last month. It now gives away about 300,000 megabytes of access per day. “What Skype did to voice, we want to do for broadband,” says Stokols.

source link via FreedomPOP Preps Open Wi-Fi, Launches Free Home Internet Challenging ISPs


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