Free Internet Access
numbers of people have signed with the major providers offering free Internet
access since the middle of last year. Most are more than willing to tolerate
the sacrifices free access providers ask to avoid paying an average of
$250 a year for fee-based service. Under
the circumstances, some people are wondering if paid net access will soon
be a thing of the past.
Our opinion: Don't bet on it.
If you rely on the Net for work or school you may want to think twice
about signing up with a free provider, unless you need a backup in case
your primary ISP slows down.
to look for
As you visit different providers, you'll rapidly discover how difficult
it can be to separate the contenders. With the similar-sounding claims
most of these companies make, it can be almost impossible to spot the
differences between services, unless you're willing to take the time to
look at the fine print.
you want to be thorough, the first thing you'll need to do is learn to
speak Technobabble. The second thing you'll require is a law degree.
is important to look at the Terms Of Service (TOS), the
legal mumbo jumbo you'll see when you register. NetZero, for example,
expects users to periodically fill out surveys. Customers who do not comply
loose access to the service. Users of AltaVista's free service
are disconnected if they fail to click on banners for the company's advertisers
at regular intervals.
Ad Blocking and Patches
In some cases ad-blocking software will limit the number of ads you'll
be forced to watch when using a free isp. Commercially available alternatives
like browser ad-on webwasher
(available for Windows and Mac) work in some cases. Patches which disable
some of the more irritating features common among free isps are also widely
available, a fact providers aren't exactly thrilled about.
"Free"Is Actually ...Er "Unfree"
Free Access providers brag that they can save
consumers a ton of money. But in most cases, the free services they offer
aren't really free at all. Nearly all ask something in return. So
what do you have to give up when you don't pay for something?
Lots it turns out.
The free Internet access service
offered by Juno has grown rapidly over the past months. The company's
subscriber base has been bolstered by the addition of former members of
the now defunct worldspy and freewwweb
providers offering free Net access are experiencing growing pains, the
likes of which we haven't seen since the great AOL debacle a few
years back. One of the few free ISPs to survive, Netzero continues to
attract users at a rate that is increasing as more free isps abandon service.
Browser-based Ads. In order to maintain a netzero membership, users must
agree to participate in periodic e-mail surveys
UK based service provider did a pretty amazing thing. In next to no time
FreeServe knocked out America Online as the leading Internet Service
Provider in the United Kingdom, using a simple strategy: they
stopped charging admission.
if only the British government would do something about telecommunications
costs. Telephone rates are still ridiculously high, making time online
prohibitively expensive for most people.
Beach, California, company with strong ties to Net advertising interests,
has already signed up 400,000 customers interested in it's free DSL
this be the wave of the future?
millions of daily visitors to it's search engine and related portal pages
AltaVista would seem to have an advantage attracting members to it's free
Available for both Mac and Windows. International coverage.
- The MicroPortal interface must be left on during surfing sessions. While
online, users must click on an ad at least once every thirty minutes or
face automatic disconnection. A major annoyance for anybody who uses the
service for anything other than just checking email.
A partnership with web giant Yahoo may make this free isp a success for
kmart - assuming both companies are willing to stick with it.
At least one dot com with a free access model was getting it right, at
least if you asked freeWWWeb's fans.
was before the company went bankrupt, demonstrating an obvious reality
facing companies offering free Net access - making a business profitable
without a source of revenue is uh...
Note: freeWWWeb customers are being referred to Juno Online. freeWWWeb
is reportedly receiving a fixed number of shares of Juno's common stock
for each customer passed on.
growing number of e-commerce sites and online communities are adding free
Net access as part of their basic services.
course, the companies themselves aren't providing the service. The dirty
work of running the network is left to contractors like 1stUp.com
a smart move - considering how many people identify with films, tv shows
and other high-profile products.
A significant number are willing to make the move, if only to be guaranteed
an email address like Bob@thesimpsons.com or Surferdude@samadams.com
this trend to continue and to pick up real steam over the months to come,
taking on slightly kafkaesque proportions as web sites across the board
start offering access, leading to some pretty strange e-mail addresses.
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