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Return of Free Internet Access

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Back in the go-go nineties, we knew we had hit a top when companies started to offer free internet access to anyone. The argument was the advertising would be enough to pay for everything, and helped the free-access proponents make money. Well, that didn’t work out too well!

Now that the good times are back, well so is that business model. UK-based mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse is going to be launching a free broadband service. Its free as long as you sign-up for their Talk Talk VoIP service. Oh oh! In the US, with Google’s recent patents and Wi-Fi plans, the ad-supported access model is ready to hit prime time as well. Tom Evslin thinks this is a model that has legs, and could work. (To some extent it works – Yahoo’s advertising dollars are helping subsidize the cheap DSL offerings from the Big Bells.) MetroFi, a smaller independent operator is also following the same business model.

My two cents: it might work for Google (and maybe Yahoo), but the copy cats who might want to jump into the fray will have a tough time. Just like their predecessors. I bet MetroFi would be a good buyout candidate.

5 Responses to “Return of Free Internet Access”

  1. Correction: It’s not VOIP that Carphone Warehouse are offering, it’s LLU (Local Loop Unbundling). Although they have the technology to offer VOIP, they don’t have the management capability or technical staff to get there. And while they’re getting everyone excited about how it’s “free”, they’re not pointing out that it’s not any good. Speeds are very, very poor, and are throttled back from 8am to 11pm every day.

  2. I don’t see the connection you are making between ad-supported Internet access models, which you name, and this announcement from Carphone Warehouse.

    The parallel to look for here is double plays of VoIP, or CPS, or mobile telephony and broadband.

    What Carphone has here is a great marketing effort. They could have sold this as ‘free telephone calls’ if you take broadband at 21ukp a month, but they chose to go for the big headlines with a ‘free broadband’ tag, and it’s worked.

  3. Wi-Fi was not a option back in the 90s and services like Yahoo Music for example where a record executives nightmare .If services sell like Music and Movie downloads do then they can be advertised and also help subsidise “free” internet acess.