▲ ▼ Sharing WiFi network with strangers for money
There is need gap for alternatives to mobile Internet via cellular network, the closest solution being WiFi hotspots. But, WiFi hotspots being run by monopolies doesn't protect the openness of the Internet.
Opening home, office, personal WiFi to the public without password protection addresses this, that's exactly what Open Wireless Movement aimed to achieve with custom router firmware. But, goodwill alone rarely reaches scalability; how about sharing WiFi for money? I'm not the first to suggest that, OpenGarden tried to do it in vain.
I'm quite certain that the above projects failed because of the need to run custom firmwares on WiFi routers, which is a large friction for homes/offices or individuals who don't know about it or have the right hardware. With the availability of cheaper network hardware, better open network software stack, I think the need gap for sharing WiFi with public for subscription commission can now be achieved.
How can we do it?
Ride hailing services like Uber, Ola are offering Free In-Car WiFi to their Taxis in India this works by sharing mobile data from the drivers smartphone via WiFi hotspot. Though this is inline with this need gap at a broader level, it still uses mobile data as a source for Internet and not fixed line broadband as found in houses and offices.
Risk could be deferred to the VPN provider; the VPN provider of course has to be trusted. In terms of security, while a smartphone sharing its hotspot is very convenient it has a lot of software which can increase the attack surface. If the user is paying for internet access, there could be a USB-powered cellular router (which the driver could plug into one of their in-car sockets) with a separate sim card with the VPN at the router level. Billing might be complicated, however, if it's not a one-time flat rate (i.e. they get in the taxi and are charged a flat fee for wifi.)
Since the driver is offering the hotspot connection through their ride hailing app, I presume it has necessary sandbox to protect the user activity from any other malicious app on that driver's phone. But I personally wouldn't bet on that , if I'm forced to use the hotspot offered by 3rd party then a VPN on my device would be mandatory.