Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Some legal issues with FON

This week Fortune magazine has an article about FON being the new way of peer-to-peer wireless connectivity, but there are a couple of things to consider before start uncorking champagne. The first obvious thing to say is that the idea is not new and that it has been around for a while, but this time is getting global and big money funding. But the real issue is whether we are not in front of another Napster case: somebody gets a brilliant idea and puts it to work before the regulatory environment is ready for it (or without considering the legal implications). It can be argued that the Argentinean businessman, always introduced as Spanish, Martin Varsavsky is not a neophyte as Shawn Fanning was, but still there are some causes for concern. For example, in the UK it can be argued that by allowing other people to connect to Internet using its wireless router, a user is establishing a electronic communications network and/or service, which will require a registration under the Communications Act 2003. In the same manner, although case by case need to be studied, it seems quite unlikely that ISPs will allow their users to share the connection so other company makes a profit. On top of that, who will bear responsibility/liability if the visitor misuses the connection?
The idea is very good, but it seems again that some of the IT pioneers and investors keep thinking that this is an area where regulation does not exist or the already the existing ones don't apply to "new" business models, or they know far more than us... Anyway, if the model is successful, we will have to wait and see whether will complement or compete with some of the proposed city-wide wireless networks.

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