Return of Free Internet Access

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.

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