WiFi is alive and prospering with JiWire now reporting that there are 215,777 free and paid WiFi hotspots in 135 countries. JiWire’s WiFi Hotspot Finder makes it easy to locate wireless Internet access around the globe but there are also a number of other tools available. I like the JiWire Hotspot Finder plugin for Skype. The plugin adds a "bot" to your list of contacts. Not sure what happens is you say "whazzup" but if you say "wifi toledo ohio", it replies to you saying "I found 45 locations with wifi within 3 miles of Toledo".
At some point not too far in the future there will be millions of hotspots and millions of mobile phones with WiFi built in. Not sure about the iPhone but millions of mobile phones will also have Skype and other VoIP applications on them. It doesn’t mean free long distance but it does mean long distance at a fraction of the current cost. If you travel in Europe you know it can cost dollars per minute to call back to the U.S. I recently got a new MaxRoam SIM smart card for the Treo 700P (which I use when out of the country). MaxRoam allows you to "travel global, pay local, and your callers pay local too". You can pick a U.S. number for the card. If you are in Paris and someone calls you the U.S. it costs .21 Euros (about 30 cents) per minute. If you call the U.S. it costs .38 euros (about 56 cents) per minute. It won’t be long before the words "long distance" only have meaning when it comes to air, sea, or land travel.
Meanwhile, the FON Community continues to grow. Fon wants WiFi to be available everywhere and they are doing a lot to make it happen. The idea is that FON members (foneros) share their wireless Internet access at home and, in return, enjoy free WiFi access wherever they find another Fonero’s Access Point. To become a "fonero" you go to the Fon website and order La Fonera which is a wireless access point about the size of a mobile phone. You connect La Fonera to a spare port on the back of your cable or DSL modem. La Fonera emits two wireless network signals — a private and a public one. The private signal is encrypted and offers you complete privacy. The public signal will be accessible to Foneros only. This free signal is the one that turns your broadband connection into a FON Access Point. I think FON is a really good idea (See prior story, "How To Become A Fonero").