By Richard Heller
A reader recently asked me if I knew of any Internet Service Provider (ISP) that offered Internet access for less than the $24 per month that her current provider was charging. Whereas a year or so ago, there were a number of options available, the market today is very limited. Lets take a look at what is available.
NetZero, the Defender of the FREE Internet, is revising their service as of October 1st. The service, including e-mail, will still be free, but they are reducing the number of hours that you can be online each month from 40 to 10, and they will no longer offer a free local access number. They do offer a pay service, $10 a month for unlimited access, no ads and a local number.
Bluelight.com, the free Internet service that was offered by Kmart, discontinued operation at the end of August and was replaced by Bluelight Unlimited. The service is $9 per month and offers unlimited access and compatibility with instant messengers.
Among the others that have disappeared over the past year is WebCombo, the service that you paid a one-time fee for a lifetime of free Internet. The free services offered by Ace Hardware, Barnes & Noble, WorldSpy, along with Alta Vista, all went out of business.
There are a couple of reasons why these Internet providers have either folded or started to charge for their service. The first reason was excessive usage: with the service being unlimited and free, people would never hang up. Instead, they would check their e-mail every five minutes or listen to Internet radio.
The other thing that they counted on was advertising. These companies sold your name to advertisers that would send you customized ads. If you were checking the price on an airline ticket, you would see rental car and hotel ads start appearing as you cruised the web. Most people got so used to seeing the ads that they just ignored them, or they discovered ways to keep the ads from appearing on their screen. As a result, the advertisers stopped advertising, and suddenly there was no money to continue the service.
America On Line has just increased their rate to $24 per month, but if you call and tell them that you want to cancel their service they may offer you the old rate. Mindspring/Earthlink also raised their rate to $22 from the $20 per month they have had for the past few years.
If you are considering changing your Internet provider, it is a wise idea to set up an e-mail address with a provider such as HotMail. By having a HotMail account you can change your Internet provider as often as you want while at the same time keeping the same e-mail address. Also, you can set up additional HotMail addresses in order to route your mail. By giving different e-mail addresses to your friends and family and another to companies while online, you can control the SPAM that you receive.
Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail email@example.com.