La Fonera: the Anti-Social Router

Posted on Mar 11, 2007

People these days could all use a little lesson in sharing. That’s sort of the idea behind the Fon Community; a community of people who share their bandwidth with others. As part of their anniversary promotion, I received a “La Fonera” wifi router in the mail a couple weeks ago. The idea sounded neat and they were giving them away for free — hard to resist such an offer.

After setting it up, I slowly began to regret turning on my Fonera all together. The device is crippled with digitally signed firmware that is purposefully designed to limit access to available features. I eventually figured out that it is indeed possible to forward ports, but was bitter to find that there was nothing I could do to connect my Nintendo DS — useful features like MAC address spoofing has been removed in the latest versions of the firmware. Not to mention that the device periodically “phones home” to a radius server.

Who knows what data they track?

What I don’t understand most of all is how a company can market this thing as a “social router” while it clearly runs anti-social software. Because I am so completely locked out of this system and its feature set is so incomplete, I don’t feel like I have any control or ownership over the device. That’s a scary and annoying thing when this device sits between me and the Internet connection I pay for month to month.

After a brief two weeks with La Fonera, I am ready to give it up and move to a better device. One that doesn’t intermittently drop my connections, restrict my usage, and spy on me. A community is built on trust and clearly Fon doesn’t trust its users.