The social router: Fonera
$49 from Fon Shop

Spanish-based Fon has a fascinating idea: Sell socially enabled routers that let users trade their wireless access with others. The 150-person, privately held firm boasts serious partners including T-Mobile, British Telecom, AT&T ( T), Google ( GOOG) Ventures, Skype and Sequoia Capital.

As explained to me by Borja Osorio, the senior business manager at Fon, for a single, flat $49 fee -- plus the cost of a broadband connection -- a consumer gets access not only to the Web from within the 300-or-so feet served by that one router, but access from the 300-or-so feet from every one of the more than 12 million Fon routers around the world. Obviously, access can be spotty. No Fonera, no Fon service, so true coverage will remain to be seen as I test this system domestically and around the world.

But at least for now, considering that I can access the network with my Facebook ( FB) credentials, social routers might just be the social media that actually pays off.

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