FON is an effort to build a global Wi-Fi network of hotspots with existing broadband connectivity — "members" are referred to as "Foneros" (Arriba!). These can be established ISPs as well as individuals. Google, eBay/Skype, Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures invested $22 million in the effort.
Here’s an AP article explaining FON, as well as identifying some of the potential challenges to the realization of FON’s objectives.
Both Google and Skype have a keen interest in seeing Wi-Fi/broadband proliferate. Whether FON ultimately takes the place of the hypothetical GoogleNet initiative is unclear. And whether FON ultimately succeeds or fails, the development of low-cost or free-access broadband networks will undoubtedly continue.
In terms of the local angle, obviously a Wi-Fi hotspot provides precise location information and would allow for more geographically relevant organic or paid search results (without a user inputting location information).
Broadband is of critical importance to anyone whose business model is tied to the Internet. And we'll be examining the state of and outlook for continued broadband growth on the panel "The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?" on day 1 of Drilling Down.
Here’s Om Malik’s post on the investment (he’ll be speaking on the broadband panel mentioned above BTW).
And here’s more from SiliconBeat.
Here’s the latest on the Google "dark fiber" rumors.