Is it Good to Share? A Case Study of FON and Meraki Approaches to Broadband

January 2, 2009

In recent years companies and communities have experimented with ways of extending broadband service by sharing connections via wireless hotspots or networks. Two companies, FON ( and Meraki ( both promote the idea that individuals can share their internet connections to provide other members of their communities with increased broadband access.

I worked with Dr. Catherine Middleton to compare the FON and Meraki models to determine how and whether they deliver high quality internet service. We interviewed users, analyzed online discussion and help forums provided by each company, and traced the company histories from start-ups to established businesses.

The research revealed that both approaches have had some success, and the Meraki approach appears to be more feasible. Yet, neither approach is able to build highly robust broadband infrastructure. We concluded that community-led initiatives to develop large-scale infrastructures, while promising in some respects, face many challenges.  The results of the study were presented at the 2008 International Telecommunication Society Biennial Conference in Montreal.

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Evaluation, Infrastructure, Projects, User Experience