Martin Varsavsky has just blogged about FON’s partnership with Google , Skype, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures
as investors. FON is a startup, of which I’m on the board of advisors, that aims to put wireless internet everywhere by linking sharing and commercial installations. This investment will help get FON off to a strong start.
As Martin says,
[The investment gives FON] a strategic boost that should help us make this great idea into a great platform for everyone who wants a faster, cheaper and more secure wireless Internet. We’ll invest this money in R&D so we can make it quicker and easier to become a FONERO and so that we can expand the number of things you can do with your FON service. Our goal, after all, isn’t just to share bandwidth. It’s to use the power of people to people networks to create a global wireless network.
I’m somewhat of a techie — I built my own MythTV instead of buying a TiVo, I run the server this blog sits on (in my living room), and had my wifi shared already, on its own IP apart from my internal network (I’m pleased that my ISP, Speakeasy, [updated:] welcomes FON use). So what’s new about FON? FON aims to make it easy for non-techies to join the wifi-sharing community too — with FON-ready routers
for sale and user-friendly installers coming soon, with security taken into account — and by doing that, it gives all of us more places to connect. You can join as a “Linus,” sharing wifi from your broadband connection and getting it free elsewhere on the network; as a “Bill,” sharing wifi and getting paid for it (but paying if you want to use others’ hotspots); or as an “Alien,” paying a reasonable subscription fee to roam on the FON network.
FON is in beta right now — or, to use a football analogy on this Super Bowl Sunday, we’ve scored the first touchdown but it’s still early in the first quarter, and we’ve got a good playbook going forward. Techies can get the software up and running, but only as Linuses, so far; non-techies might want to buy a router or wait for the next revision. The Alien and Bill rollouts will come later, as the infrastructure is built out further. If we can get 3,000 Foneros in 3 months of alpha-stage, who knows how many might join the game as we move forward!
Most of us would be put off if a court issued a press release cheering the number of prisoners its judges had put behind bars or the number of tenants it had helped landlords to evict. That seems antithetical to the neutral adjudication of disputes, and ethical rules regularly decry such “appearance of bias.” Yet WIPO seems to think it perfectly natural to crow about its arbitrators’ favoritism for complainants against “cybersquatters” in UDRP proceedings. It issued a release that reads like a solicitation for trademark claimants’ business, not a promotion of neutral arbitration services:
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) saw a 20% increase in the number of cybersquatting (abusive registration of trademarks as domain names) cases filed in 2005 as compared to 2004. In 2005, a total of 1,456 cybersquatting cases were filed with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center. This increase represents the highest number of cybersquatting cases handled by the WIPO Center since 2001….
In the 6,349 decisions they have rendered, WIPO panels have found for the complainant in 5,327 (83.9%) cases.
Now it is not surprising that the World Intellectual Property Organization often aligns itself with intellectual property claimants against those representing the public domain, competition, or non-IP claims. It is disturbing, however, that it expresses this bias while serving as a provider of admistrative panels for the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. WIPO is ICANN-accredited to provide panelists for what is supposed to be an “impartial and independent” determination of rights to a domain name.
One might already doubt the impartiality of some WIPO panelists, such as those who decided in past UDRP procedings that
bodacious-tatas.com “is obviously aimed at diverting Internet users to log on to the Respondents site in the erroneous belief that the site in question is owned by the Complainant [Tata Sons Limited]”
and that vivendiuniversalsucks.com “refers to goods or services provided by the Complainant [Vivendi Universal]“. Unfortunately, this release suggests that not only some panelists, but WIPO as the provider responsible for appointing panelists from its lists, has prejudged all respondents as “abusive registra[nts] of trademarks as domain names.”
Small wonder, then, that in administrative proceedings where the complainant chooses the resolution forum, more than 2/3 of complainants have chosen WIPO — a healthy business, at $500-1,250 apiece for WIPO (apart from panelist fees).