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Technology & Innovation

How To Win Friends: Become A Free Public Hotspot

When it comes to bandwidth, sharing can be good: Anyone within 100 feet of a person’s Karma wireless modem is offered 100 Mb of free bandwidth. If they accept, the modem owner gets an extra 100 Mb as well.

What’s the Latest Development?

New to the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) scene is Karma, which bills itself as “the first social hotspot.” For $79, a user can purchase their wireless modem, which taps into Clearwire’s 4G network and comes with 1 Gb of bandwidth that doesn’t expire. The modem is completely open, which means that anyone within about 100 feet of it can connect to the network and be offered 100 Mb of free data. When they accept, the user receives 100 Mb of free data as well. The service went live today in more than 70 cities.

What’s the Big Idea?

The idea of collective networking — “social bandwidth” — is spreading thanks to companies like Karma, FreedomPop, and Fon, among others. The hope is that, as more open hotspots and free bandwidth become available, more customers will sign on to “become” hotspots themselves. In Karma’s case, “[if it] can reach a certain scale, it can build a persistent network where enough hotspots are in the wild at any given time that Karma users are almost guaranteed of getting a signal in crowded public places like airports or city squares.”

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