How to securely share Wi-Fi publicly

Ever since Broadband speeds have jumped from the useful (512k) to the boggling (10mb for £35 a month!) I’ve been aware of the fact that during a week, I must only use 1% of the bandwidth available to me here at Tubb Towers.

Sure, there are times when 10mb comes in handy – but these are usually for “burst” applications, not continuous use – downloading an .ISO, a large Service Pack or streaming media. Generally however, I wouldn’t notice the difference between a 4mb connection and 10mb connection.

So what to do with that extra bandwidth?

For a long time I’ve entertained the idea of providing a free Wi-Fi hotspot. Anybody passing by could use a portion of my Broadband to do some casual surfing, and I’d still be left with enough bandwidth to do everything I wanted to do.

But there are, of course, downsides. Sharing your Broadband may make you more vunerable to intrusion on your own LAN, what if the person using your Broadband does something he/she shouldn’t do – dodgy web-sites, etc, how do you log who is accessing your hot-spot so they don’t hog the connection?

From a technical point of view, I’d like a Wi-Fi Access Point that does 3 things:-

1. Plugs into my LAN as an addition AP without any problems. I want to continue to be able to use my exisiting high security Wi-Fi AP for myself.

2. Allows Wi-Fi connections that are separated and unable to access my existing LAN, only have access to the Internet and are only allowed to use a certain portion of bandwidth – perhaps even dependant upon time of day.

3. Requires a registered logon to track and protect me against the Police banging at my door asking to speak to me about that web-site “I” accessed last week.

When I heard of the Fon service last year, I was intrigued.

Initially for Spanish users only – Fon now provide registered users of their service worldwide with a low-cost Wi-Fi Access Point to plug into their existing Broadband. Once plugged in, your Broadband is shared amongst other Fon users who can use your Wi-Fi connection by logging in with their registered details. When you are away from home, you can use other Fon Wi-Fi Hotspots to access the Internet yourself.

My initial reaction last year was that this was a good idea, but wouldn’t take off. ISP’s would step in to enforce their Conditions of Service (no sharing!), users wouldn’t get involved, and the service wouldn’t last.

But it’s been a good while now, and looking at Fon’s Service Maps shows that there are plenty of other users involved – even locally to me. So I’ve taken the plunge, registered for the service (at no cost) and ordered a Fon Router and High-Gain Antennae (total cost around £60) to see how it all works. I’ll report back when I’ve received the equipment and tested the service.

Are you a Fon user? Do you have your own ideas, suggestions or warnings for “Community Wi-Fi”. Leave me a comment – I’d be interested to see what others think.

Comments

  • Richard2007-05-11 11:22:59

    I know Tim! Gutting! Still - that's the price I paid for hesitating to use them. :-)

  • Unknown2007-05-11 11:16:04

    You were robbed - they were offering those FON routers for free at one point, I managed to get one and hook it up.  Quite useful in that you can restrict the bandwidth usage on it, too.

  • Matt2007-05-06 15:11:52

    somewhat on topic I guess, but the only way I'm reading this is thanks to the good graces of my neighbor allowing me to 'bum' some internet off him. My cable modem's connection has been down since last Friday afternoon when the wonderful cable company employee 'fixed' my other neighbor's issue while, seemingly, breaking my connection. I'm debating going DSL...

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