Motivations and Barriers for Participation in a Hybrid Wireless Community: The Case of FON

Motivations and Barriers for Participation in a Hybrid Wireless Community: The Case of FON

Giovanni Camponovo (Department of Management and Social Sciences,University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland, Manno, Switzerland), Anna Picco-Schwendener (Faculty of Communication Sciences,Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland) and Lorenzo Cantoni (Faculty of Communication Sciences, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijtd.2014070102


Wireless communities may be an intriguing alternative to 3G networks for offering mobile Internet, but their success depends on their ability to reach a critical mass of active members. The main issue is to understand what motivates and hinders people to join and participate in these communities to design suitable incentives to attract people and promote an active and enduring participation. This paper studies the factors that influence participation in FON, the largest wireless community, based on a theoretical model based combining research on technology adoption, self determination theory and prosocial behavior. The model is then empirically tested employing a mixed methodology drawing on 30 interviews and a survey of 268 members. Two types of participations are found to be driven by different motivations: participation by sharing, mainly driven by idealistic motivation linked to community values and reciprocity, and social participation is driven by social and technical motives like interacting and learning with other community members. On the other hand, utilitarian motivations do not have a significant effect on participation, even though they are deemed important for attracting members.
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Study Context: Wireless Communities And The Fon Case

Wireless communities appeared around 2000. While mobile operators struggled deploying 3G networks, a grassroots movement quietly set up open Wi-Fi hotspots and formed wireless communities offering free Wi-Fi Internet access (Schmidt & Townsend, 2003). Fueled by cheap equipment and flat-fee Internet connections, they started to grow and become an option for offering wireless broadband in densely populated areas.

Other actors began to offer Wi-Fi Intenet access with various business models including pure communities (entirely built and operated by members in a self-organized way), hybrid communities (where a business firm supports members by operating central network elements and offering and incentives in exchange of exploiting the community network), commercial providers (which deploy hotspots, manage them and charge users for access) and government-based municipal networks (Rao & Parikh, 2003b, Lehr & McKnight, 2003).

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