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The Return of Free Internet

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the probably-browser-limited dept.

Wireless Networking 260

valdean writes "Remember the days of ad-supported dial-up Internet access from the likes of Netzero and Altavista Free Access? Those days, and the business model that supplied them, are long gone... or perhaps not. A new effort is being explored by California-based FreeFi Networks. Last week, the company launched what will be a nationwide network of ad-supported wi-fi hotspots. Ads will appear in what FreeFi calls a "narrow, persistent band of content" across the bottom of the user's screen. To provide incentive to America's coffee shops, they'll share advertising revenues with the hosting venue. Has 'free Internet access' finally arrived?"

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omg (0, Offtopic)

Vacant Mind (449927) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742911)

OMG FIRST POST I WIN

WOOT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742914)

First Post!

Re:WOOT! (0, Offtopic)

Vacant Mind (449927) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742918)

you lose

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=140238&cid=1 17 42911

Not really free (4, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742915)

I pay via my phone company and ISP - I'm not paying any more once I'm online. But I don't look at adverts - it's AdBlock all the way.

Re:Not really free (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742983)

i think it might be some toolbar stuff appearing at the bottom of the screen so adblock might not be able to help

but i could be wrong

Re:Not really free (1)

SkyNetRoboGeek (858906) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743048)

Yup thats what I say, more space for spammers and too good to be true crap to be be filled up with their singles matching free sign up and swearing this is free stuff space. Free to no one baby. Hugs and kiss them spots good buh bye

Re:Not really free (4, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743097)

You pay your cable company, yet you watch adverts. You buy magazines, yet there are advertisements on there.

Don't confuse who gets what. The phone company makes money to route your call to your ISP. Your ISP makes money routing your computer to the internet. Somehow, the websites you surf, including this one, need to get some financial recompense or they're going to fall under the cost of bandwidth and hosting. Of all of the people on the food chain, they're probably the most deserving.

You may be paying your phone company and ISP, but you're not paying via your phone company and ISP... It's not going to anyone but them.

Re:Not really free (3, Insightful)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743167)

Yes, however, for me at least, there is a point where advertising goes too far. Some websites (gamespy's websites in particular) are so chock full of advertisments, and since I have ideological disagreements, I will usually refuse to go to their site, or use their services. Same thing, with adverts being placed inside TV shows and movies. I didn't pay 8 dollars to see a movie and then get hit with the world's biggest coke can on screen.

Re:Not really free (3, Insightful)

erick99 (743982) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743110)

The folks that write the code to block the popups and popunders and popsideways are in a constant race with the marketers trying to sneak in an ad. The bottom line is, could you offer free Internet service without some sort of advertising and make money? Let me rephrase, could you offer a free service, take in no revenue, pay your staff and maintain your infrastructure and break even or turn a profit? Hell of a game, ain't it?

Re:Not really free (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743123)

Google seems to managed without pop-ups or pop-unders, and without animated ads. I never block static images or text-only ads. I always block popup and pop under (without noticing). Animated falls in between: I avoid sites with (too many of) those.

Re:Not really free (3, Informative)

Atrax (249401) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743186)

Google is not in the business of free internet service provision. Their business model is utterly different to what your parent is talking about.

Google is, in essence*, in the business of

a) Content Provision
b) Advertising

to run an ISP for free is a fairly difficult proposition. I have friends in the business and they provide "free" internet, but in the end someone has to pay up - in the case of pubnet [pubnet.com.au] , the pubs pay, and the punters surf for free. What I'm saying is the money has to come from somewhere.

* simplifying

Re:Not really free (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743230)

Google is not in the business of free internet service provision. Their business model is utterly different to what your parent is talking about.

He did? Then I misunderstood him. I thought he was talking about ad-blocking in general.

Otherwise I agree. It is different because serving web pages is so darn cheap, while wires and routers are not.

Re:Not really free (1)

TG1 (840502) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743216)

I also try my best to avoid web sites who have gone over the top with adverts. Taking CoolTechZone http://www.cooltechzone.com/index.php?option=conte nt&task=view&id=779&Itemid=0&limit=1&limitstart=1 [cooltechzone.com] , for example. This particular page, has 9 lines of content and 6 adverts. Not simple discrete text or static image ads, but flashing, gaudy animated ones. It's a bit much really when the adverts FAR FAR outweigh the actual content.

Re:Not really free (1)

SirXavier (861670) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743203)

is not very good to pay via phone, some company is free to pay via phone, Dial-up is steel in use in East Europe.

Misnomer (3, Insightful)

EvilNutSack (700432) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742919)

You may not be paying for it with money, but you still end up 'paying' for it.

*free* as in *beer* (1)

BlueJay465 (216717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742944)

and this is how the economy works, evolution in progress...

/insert cliche here

Re:Misnomer (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743178)

Couldn't you just somehow 'AdBlock' their ad servers? Hosts file? C'mon people!

Return? Feh - it never left. (5, Interesting)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742921)

I'm surfing _right now_ on an open connection in the next apartment building.

In the past year, when on the road, It's never taken more than a few minutes of walking / wardriving through a strip mall or retail street to get a connection.

While this service certainly has some value to me as a last resort, I wonder how many non /.'ers are aware of the free internet around them.

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (1, Troll)

Zen Punk (785385) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742972)

I am also surfing right now on a free dial-up connection in Western Washington state called NoCharge. It's not an ad-supported thing either, just a regular PPP connection with an anonymous login. I know that they also offer service on the east coast, but I have no idea how they are able to provide this service. Anyone else familiar with this company?

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742988)

They charge quite a bit for tech support. Like 10 bucks a call. Maybe that's where they make their money.

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (4, Informative)

myom (642275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743031)

I am not so familiar to the dial-up ISPs in Sweden now, but a few years ago they got all their incomes from the calls. For example, Tele2 had modem pools with free Intenet access. One would use Telia's (the now partly privatised national phone company) phone lines to call them. Telia would charge you per minute (about 1$ per hour for a normal call across the entire country) and pay Tele2 a bit to receive the call on their lines leading to the modem pool.

Prior to this the way to make money was to have a prequisite on these "free of charge" services - you had to sign up on their international and long distance calls services.

In Sweden a governmental organisation called Post- och Telegrafistyrelsen, PTS regulates how much teh different networks and telcos can charge for their calls and call transfers, and telcos' business schemes adapt to these rates, but in short the general idea is to distribute the end user's money to the companies offering different parts of the phone/computer -> destination services.

That way you would use Telia's phone lines to connect to the ISP/phone operator's lines that would in their turn do the final long distance or international call.

Internet access has always been cheap in Sweden even in the dial-up times. I currently pay about 300kr (40$) a month for a 10Mbit/s Ethenet connection, the house is connected to a X GBit/s city network, with an option for 100Mbit/s for around 10$ more a month, but with a cap at 800GB transferred a month at that rate, after which it falls back to a slower speed.

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (2, Interesting)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743082)

In Brighton here in the UK, the wireless scene is pretty thriving. We have a few little orgs that provide totally free access. The first, http://wireless.looseconnection.com/ provides access in various cafes and pubs, and another, http://www.piertopier.net/ provides access all along the main part of the beach(!). There's also a few more places providing some in public gardens etc.

It's all free and very well maintained.

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743088)

...through a strip mall

And where can I find one of these...

S-t-r-i-p Malls

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (1)

Dr.Opveter (806649) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743122)

When i moved into a temporary place one of the downsides was that the phone system was hooked up to a hotel type phone system and outgoing calls are very expensive. Dial-up is out of the question. (A)DSL is not allowed on their connection and no option for a cable subscription either. There are no WIFI providers. That is, not commercially.
Being on the 6th floor i am able to pick up several networks in my neighborhood and surf for free. (i ssh into a remote machine of mine that's on a 4mbit cable connection and do all my surfing/downloading/whatever there so i use very little bandwidth on the wifi)

I wouldn't mind paying for my connection, but there's just nothing available for me right now, so as a last resort i'm very happy with these 'free' networks.

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (1)

gonzo-wireless (847083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743194)

"While this service certainly has some value to me as a last resort, I wonder how many non /.'ers are aware of the free internet around them."

I wonder how many /.'ers know it's illegal to connect to an access point you don't have permission to.

Re:Return? Feh - it never left. (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743213)

Jesus, you wanna cop to stealing someone else's newspaper too?

insulating tape (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742922)

I'm getting the old insulating tape ready to cover the
' narrow, persistent band of content" across the bottom of'
my screen

hotspots? (5, Funny)

spankey51 (804888) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742923)

"Last week, the company launched what will be a nationwide network of ad-supported wi-fi hotspots."
Note: All hotspots will occur exclusively at starbucks coffee shops. Considerations are underway to expand to McDonalds and Walmarts near you!

How? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742924)

How will it manage to accomplish this? browsing inside of an activeX window? will it proxy everywhere you go with a frame on the bottom of every page ala google images? And if so, how long till this gets cracked?

Re:How? (1)

conteXXt (249905) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743208)

I think the phrase may be "bottom of the screen"

I am not usre that this means the bottom of the browser.

Probably an application that manages the connection AND the adware.

no adware = no connection

Just my guess though.

Re:How? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743229)

How will it manage to accomplish this? browsing inside of an activeX window? will it proxy everywhere you go with a frame on the bottom of every page ala google images? And if so, how long till this gets cracked?

Probably it will redirect all http requests to a server that lets you download an unlocker executable, which needs to be running (and displaying the ad) to allow your internet traffic to travel onto the wider internet.

The thing I'm curious about is whether they'll allow just http, or also direct connections with any protocol on any port once the ad program is running.

It will still be cracked ofcourse, but the question is whether the crack will be widespread enough to not make this venture profitable. Personally, I'd hope nobody is such a selfish prick as to actually try to freeload off this, since if enough people do it, the company will go broke, the free wi-fi will go away, and people will complain again that they have to pay to play.

Depends on where you live (5, Informative)

trifish (826353) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742926)

Has 'free Internet access' finally arrived?

Here where I live (EU, Czech Republic), we have had companies offering free access to internet for free for many many years. So your question should be rephrased to "Has 'free Internet access' finally arrived in the US?"

Do you not pay for the phone calls? (4, Informative)

blorg (726186) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742962)

That's how 'free internet' worked here in Ireland; more correctly called 'no subscription internet' where you were instead charged the cost of a normal local call, and the ISP got a cut for terminating the call. Freeserve in the UK was the first 'free' ISP in Europe following this model I believe, although the market has now swung more towards flat-rate and then broadband.

Re:Do you not pay for the phone calls? (1)

davids-world.com (551216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743028)

Far from free though - local calls here in the UK (0845 number) cost almost 4p (about 6 eur cent) per minute during day-time.

Exactly, European local calls not free like the US (1)

blorg (726186) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743209)

Sure, but it was 'free' in the sense that you didn't have to pay for the ISP subscription _on top of_ the phone calls (which was the case previously in Ireland at least, although they did bring in a daytime discount rate for internet).

The key thing here is that around the time the internet was taking off, local phone calls in Europe were not generally free, unlike the US.

Interestingly in Ireland in the 80s, local phone calls were however flat rate, ~10p for as long as you wanted. I was using a C64 service called Compunet at the time (a UK-wide service that had a node in Dublin), and would just leave the phone connected, much to the envy of my British friends who suffered a per-minute charge with BT.

Per-minute charges on local calls were however brought in here by the monopoly telco just as data services started to become more popular...

Re:Do you not pay for the phone calls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743180)

That sounds about as "free" as a 1-900 number.

Ok, you may or may not get that reference, but Americans know what I'm talking about-- we haven't paid by the minute for local calls in like 20 years or something. If we had to pay for local calls, the internet would have developed much, much more slowly here. About as slowly as say, how slowly it developed in Europe. Don't get me wrong, you guys did all right in the end, since your small countries make it easier to wire up broadband, but the internet lifestyle just isn't as prevasive among Europeans as it is among Americans. And no wonder, after all, you guys have been paying by the minute!

Idem -- Brasil (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743190)

Down here we have 4-5 companies that offer dial-up access without costs, and than charge for support (if you use it), web acceleration (use of an specialized proxy that crunches jpegs etc), wideband access, and other stuff. In the case of 0-cost access, the phone companies pay them part of the calls (normally local).

Re:Do you not pay for the phone calls? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743217)

Back in the dark days you paid your monthly fee, a per-minute access fee, and your phone call!

Worked out to be about £20/month and 5p/minute off peak, 10p on peak.

!Free (4, Interesting)

mirko (198274) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742929)

It's not Free if you have to rely on your provider to throttle your bandwidth by flooding you with ads.
I am somehow anxious to see that one has to pay the big bucks to avoid an over-commercial situation.

Ad-blocking technology may kill it (5, Insightful)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742932)

Pay-to-surf was a British attempt to pay people to watch advertising online - it failed, partly because a lot of users found a way to move the advertising off-screen using virtual desktops

Now we are in the age of pop-up blocking and adblock [mozdev.org] , a few REGEXP filters and a bit of custom config will probably let a lot of users very easily remove the advertising content... unless, that is, they intend to use a dedicated client instead of open standards for their wifi hotspots, in which case mac and linux laptops probably won't work with it anyway.

Re:Ad-blocking technology may kill it (3, Insightful)

Council (514577) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742967)

It's difficult for ad-blocking technology to kill something unless an actual majority of users figure out how to do it. It's easy for /.ers to forget that the HUGE majority of users can't get around their own default browser, let alone block an ad that their ISP is trying hard to put there.

Re:Ad-blocking technology may kill it (2, Insightful)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743106)

Most of those users may not even realise they're blocking ads, some popular firewall packages such as the all-in-one Norton Internet Security block ads, as do several shareware third-party applications now. I quoted adblock not for its ease of use but because it's free (OSS) and it's what I use.

I suspect the amount of problems facing IE/Windows users now is going to force a degree of evolution - yes, most users aren't capable of it, but those aren't the people who take their laptops to a free wifi hotspot. FreeFi are targeting their service at a section of the online community which has already moved far beyond newbie-status

Re:Ad-blocking technology may kill it (2, Insightful)

Simon (815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743136)

Pay-to-surf was a British attempt to pay people to watch advertising online - it failed, partly because a lot of users found a way to move the advertising off-screen using virtual desktops

That and advertisers not interested in using these free-internet companies to advertise to the cheapskate demographic.

--
Simon

Seems reasonable (0, Redundant)

ntxb229 (542609) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742933)

I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of people don't really like ads while they're browsing the net. This actually seems like a good idea though. I think everyone can bare to have a few extra ads for 30 minutes a day while they have their coffee. It was having it on your primary internet connection that made it so unbearable for netzero, etc...

Re:Seems reasonable (1)

LinuxGeek (6139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743074)

On most websites, /. included, I don't mind the ads. What I do find frustrating is the lack of control we have to see the ads we would like.

For example, I'm reading stories on the /. front page and have just clicked an article when the ad catches my eye. Before I can get to the stop button, the new page loads. Because of the dynamic ad loader, a new ad loads when I hit the back button.

I can't search for the ad, only hit reload and hope that the ad reappears, kinda like roulette. So, the ad systems that I don't mind are still not very productive for me. If they had a page that was all of the ads they are currently cycling, I'd go there occasionally.

Websites aren't limited like a television, we should have a little creative control and be allowed to see ads that interest us.

Will it be available for non-Windows users? (5, Interesting)

GraemeDonaldson (826049) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742934)

Both TFA and the FreeFi site don't mention OS requirements. The FreeFi site has a screenshot of their "toolbar" (the thing with the constant streaming ads) running on XP. What are the chances it'll be available for non-Windows people too?

Re:Will it be available for non-Windows users? (2, Insightful)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743197)

Very low, as always. End users (read:Joe Sixpack) simply are not using anything other than the Windows XP Home (ughhhh) that came with their computer. Of course, I can defeat my own argument by saying Joe Sixpack isn't the guy who's going to be using WiFi hotspots. In that vein, it would behoove them to make a MacOS client, seeing how many macs have wireless built in.

Great idea, but will it make the bucks? (3, Interesting)

Hurklefish (733687) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742936)

I think this is a great idea. A business model based on giving something away is one of my favorites, and has been since the release of doom 1.0. If done well, everyone benefits. One thing I'm wondering.. this persistant band of content. How long will it take until someone comes up with a way to disable that? I seem to recall various other schemes that used a similar concept, and it always seemed like someone would quickly come up with a method for removing the revenue generating add content. Maybe a similar idea would work better, i.e. instead of a persistent bar of content, you could have an add filled portal type page that the user sees when they first access the hot spot. Not hard to set up at all. Of course, it might be that their ad content is just fine, and not a bother. Google is an example of a company doing that kind of thing correctly. We get a useful service, and the ads aren't flashing yellow monstrosities. If done wrong, tho, it can be a nightmare.

Whap happens when... (5, Informative)

ET_Fleshy (829048) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742937)

From TFA:
The FreeFi Toolbar provides a persistent presence on the user's desktop only while logged into an affliated public hotspot and is entirely removed when they log out. IT USES NO ADWARE OR SPYWARE. The Toolbar displays useful content including local directory services, downloadable games, premium media content and display advertising.
I'm wondering how the adbar is displayed on your computer. It sounds to me like the user does not have to install anything on their computer, but I highly doubt that. If nothing really is required to be installed on the users computer, firefox will take care of that real quick, both adblock and the ability to modify the base CSS style will quickly solve that problem. However, if the user is forced to install "non adware and/or spyware" to use their service, Privoxy [privoxy.org] I would think should be able to disable it. Either way I wouldn't mind seeing this spring up around the country.

Re:Whap happens when... (2)

Dougie Cool (848942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742981)

However, if the user is forced to install "non adware and/or spyware" to use their service,

No, I'm pretty sure it will be adware.

Should it? (4, Insightful)

Qa1 (592969) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742938)

Has 'free Internet access' finally arrived?

We have had telephone network access for about a centutry now.

It has never been free.

Why should Internet access be?

Re:Should it? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742961)

We have had telephone network access for about a centutry now.

It has never been free.

Why should Internet access be?


Why are you defending the shareholders? They'll stab you in the back if they see the opportunity.

Re:Should it? (2, Informative)

FirienFirien (857374) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742978)

Because the companies can't advertise on a phone line while someone's making a call, and when they stop calling there's no-one there to advertise to.

Re:Should it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742987)

Well, the internet is free.
The connection, however, is not.

Better analogy (5, Insightful)

NerdConspiracy (858939) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743002)


Has 'free Internet access' finally arrived?

We have had telephone network access for about a centutry now.

It has never been free.

Why should Internet access be?


We have had television network access for half a century now.

It has always been free (well at least some of it).

Why shouldn't Internet access be?

Re:Better analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743046)

Because TV is able to get enough of its income from commercials/advertising? Netzero tried the same thing and failed, but you know that.

Re:Better analogy (2, Interesting)

Qa1 (592969) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743075)

Television isn't a communication network. Someone broatcasts to you whatever you desire. You can't broadcast back. You don't determine which information you get. You can't even choose not to receive the commercials. You can't be a server yourself, share your files, or setup your own broadcast on the television "network".

Telephone network access is a much better analogy for Internet access than television. Furthermore, television has never really been a network in the computer sense. And in the cases when it became something similar (e.g. webTV), lo and behold: it was based on a subscription model, ie non-free.

Re:Should it? (2, Interesting)

thbb (200684) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743067)

Because the marginal cost for providing internet access is null.

Enter a coffee shop and ask (politely) for a glass of water or to use the bathroom, or to sit for an hour while you're waiting for someone: no one will charge you, as the cost for providing this service is absorbed in the fixed costs of the store.

Side note: I don't think the television metaphor is a good one: you have to keep producing TV programs to entertain TV viewers, hence TV broadcast can't be free, unless it's crap meant to zombie you into consuming habits under the disguise of entertaining you.

Re:Should it? (1)

cyberjessy (444290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743078)

FM/MW Radio is free.
FM Television is free.

It really depends on whether the business model is supportable with advertising. And then again, its about being open to change. The web and email is free because the pioneers thought of a radically new way to make money out of it. And then it became the rule.

It did not happen with telephone. People were narrow minded then.

And finally, you said telephony is not free. But then if the net becomes free, VoIP enables free telephony. It also enables free web-casts, and internet radios. All supported by advertising.

This might be a new beginning, who knows!

Linux support? (1)

archevis (634851) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742939)

How about Linux support, is that taken care of?
Or does the Free Internet only support Wintendo...?

Nothing is free (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742940)

It isn't free it has advertising.

Even "free"-to-air television is NOT free. All those products and services advertised. those products and services you buy, pay for that TV.

If it is government funded TV then it is your taxes that are paying for it.

There is no free lunch.

Re:Nothing is free (1)

KontinMonet (737319) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743166)

And if it's cable or satellite, your subscription PLUS all those ads make a very nice (practically tax exempt [bbc.co.uk] ) profit for Murdoch...

you all know what the real question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742941)

Does it run Linux?

Here we go again... (4, Insightful)

Ross Finlayson (17913) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742942)

Yet another misguided company that thinks that "The Internet" == "The World-Wide Web".

I don't think this is the future. But what is? (2, Interesting)

Council (514577) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742950)

It seems pretty clear that wireless access will only increase, until we no longer worry about our physical connection to the internet; it will simply be everywhere. The question is, with people moving around cities and such, what payment model will survive? I suspect it will be something along the lines of companies sharing the actual infrastructure but selling ACCESS to it individually, much like long-distance carriers do with the current phone system.

But I think an ad-based system for basic access is just not a great general solution. Maybe there's some small group that wants it, but that probably won't justify the large cost of installing equipment at first. I predict this will go under for the same reasons the old free internet providers did.

New Economy! (4, Insightful)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742958)

Yes, it's the New Economy! It wasn't really gone - that downcycle was just part of it. Everything free (supported by ads for other free services, supported by ads for the first free service), buying up blog companies and other things that loads of people use for free, it's The Future! Once more!

The New Economy is really different from the Old Economy - for one thing, companies don't need to make any profits, earnings or even have a business plan, but we knew that already. The other thing is that it leads to a total stock market crash every eight years! It's The Future.

But doesn't that cost insane amounts of money, I hear you ask, investing billions in no-brains companies every few years, losing it all, starting all over "because the VCs must invest in something, or give the money back to investors!"

Yes, but (and you can sing along, as you do know the words) - we'll make it up in volume! Over and over and over again...

The problem with ads (4, Insightful)

FirienFirien (857374) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742963)

The problem with the advertising business - as seen with the complaints about TV recording utilities that automatically detect advert breaks, with the widespread use of popup blockers, and the large number of people who completely ignore ads:

Most people don't like adverts.

The companies that pay for the adverts are hoping to get extra custom want more ways to get to the client, and this will likely go forward because of the technology push - BUT the problem with a fixed bar of adverts is that after a few logons you ignore most of what happens in that part of the screen.

Yes, there are people who do find the ads interesting, and will click on them. I currently find TV ads more interesting than most TV, since the advertisers are stretching further and further to catch our attention in zany and wacky ways that make us impressed enough to even think about buying their product; but I don't think that's the norm. People with an agenda will miss the ads, for the greater part; the tie-in with cheaper broadband [slashdot.org] may be good enough timing that this will work - cost per profit - but I'll be surprised.

Not that I'd complain.

Re:The problem with ads (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743019)

though most users ignore the ads but some users do really click through. It is just like TV advert since they can't force you to watch the advert. They would have a statistics by the time of click through rate i presume and the business would decide

So what happens when... (1)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742970)

So what happens when people figure out how to use the service without looking at the Ads? Do the sponsors stop paying? And isn't there already free internet access at some hotspots in parts of some cities? I can't see this company making that much money. And won't they need a broadband connection for every business that uses this service? Unless they have a very strong wireless connection, and I can't see the ad revenue being over $20/month per business (unless each business had thousands of customers a month viewing the ads.)

maybe off-topic (3, Informative)

isecore (132059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742993)

but free dialup has been very common here in Sweden for 2-3 years now. Ever since broadband took off the companies provide anyone who wants with free dialup - only pay the phonecharge.

Hell, there are several places where you go to a webpage, click a button and boom they provide you with a username, password and phone# to call. All without having to provide a single shred of personal information.

Re:maybe off-topic (1)

dajak (662256) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743064)

In the Netherlands the only dialup (being ISDN 64/128kbps) still available is 'free' dialup. There are 11 providers that I know of.

Of course you have to pay per minute (0.01/0.028 euro) for using the phone connection. It's actually more expensive than a cheap 20 euro a month ADSL subscription if you use Internet regularly.

Free WiFi is really free. There are lots of free WiFi access points here (with the university spread all over own), but no provider with a free national network. It is an interesting concept, but I do not see how they are going to force me to watch advertising.

Re:maybe off-topic (1)

blackomegax (807080) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743066)

pity international calling is so expensive. anonymous internet would be a huge commodity.

Juno (1)

BrianGa (536442) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742994)

I still remember free dial-up email from Juno.

This idea sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11742996)

when will they learn ?

No one apart from the odd clueless newbie clicks ads.

Re:This idea sucks (1)

rozz (766975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743099)

No one apart from the odd clueless newbie clicks ads.
which is like more than 90% of the internauts

Re:This idea sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743131)

internauts

Please come here so that I may stab you through the eye with a long needle.

Re:This idea sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743150)

...and there are enough odd clueless newbies outside of slashdot to make it profitable.

Online ads is big business (1)

Dr.Opveter (806649) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743187)

I also thought nobody ever clicks on these ads either, but i must admit i've even done it myself.

Read up [itfacts.biz] and find out online ads can (still) be big business.

Displays ads? (5, Funny)

rookworm (822550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742999)

The company said that the content bar does not involve adware or spyware.

I'd like to hear their definition of adware.

Nice (3, Interesting)

martingunnarsson (590268) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743005)

Mostly negative comments so far. I think this is a very good thing. If the other option is no wifi at all, I'd go for the ad-sponsored one any day. I wouldn't mind the ads as I would only use the connection temporarly.

Re:Nice (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743183)

Pass. The one's who pay the bills make the rules. Who's to say that a powerful retailer, who is paying for 'your' time, via ads, decides that the competitor isn't worthy of being accessed via this service. It does say 'free internet' and 'filtered content' is implied I'm afraid.

are they talking about a coffe shops? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743011)

i think at 4$ a cup....they should splurge for the broadband conection and buy a 50$ router and waaaalllaaaaa freee internet for their wonerful zombies willing to pay 4$ for coffee....

Free wifi internet, free packets? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743016)

Besides the problems with forcing the ads, how will they make sure the person sitting across the street can't read your email? That's a big issue, imo.
With public access wifi, capturing the airbourne packets is probably gonna be very easy. And no-one notices you, because your notebook will simply function as a 'radio'...

Ofcourse, using tunnels (w/IPSec) and TLS will provide the neccesary encryption, but unless you always 'phone home' and use your home intenet connection, privacy will be an issue.

And ofcourse, there's the banners. The only thing that I can think of that will work is some mangling proxy that adds a frame on each and every page. And even that is very simple to bypass. But it _does_ mean a direct internet connection is not allowed, because most services are not meant to have banners injected to them, or even incapable of transferring them.

Thus, when they indeed only use a web proxy, I cannot classify as 'free internet', because the web isn't the Internet.

I'd just sit back and wait til it comes, then take a look at it again. It may not be as bad as described above, but it still could ofcourse.

Please submit an article when it is actually _working_.

Re:Free wifi internet, free packets? (2, Informative)

The Mutant (167716) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743192)

...Besides the problems with forcing the ads, how will they make sure the person sitting across the street can't read your email? That's a big issue, imo.
With public access wifi, capturing the airbourne packets is probably gonna be very easy. And no-one notices you, because your notebook will simply function as a 'radio'...


At public access points I always use a Proxy Server, and I always use one at work also - added bonus - I can look at any pages I'd like to and not worry about hitting something NSFW.

All the Admins would see (if they were snooping) is an encrypted SSL session between by browser and a remote web site.

I'm currently using MegaProxy [megaproxy.com] , but a Google search [google.com] reveals a large list of both pay and free services.

Re:Free wifi internet, free packets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743219)

You kindof missed the point.

If they use a mangling, caching proxy, you cannot use your solution. You can only surf the web (no ssh, no quake3, etc), and only through their proxy, with their banners on them. Because that's what their revenue comes from.

I'd be happy to see a public wifi network that _does_ offer a real internet connection, though, but considering the banner's, I _think_ it's not.

Your solution would get rid of the banners, so they would want to get rid of, your solution.
And because a (public!) proxy is used, everyone around you will be able to follow you.

Surrendering your privacy is very costly, so the 'free' internet connection would in fact not be free. (hmm deja vu...)

Better than the current model (3, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743018)

The current model seems to fall into the you-pay-through-the-nose-you-businessman type. Starbucks was once upon a time charging 60 bucks per month for unlimited wireless access. Airports and other places still charge something like a dollar per minute.

On the other hand, many people leave their networks open either inadvertently or intentionally because if you're resolved to pay for the backend anyway, you might as well share.

So wireless internet access right now is either free or ludicrously expensive, with nothing inbetween. This seems like it could be a nice inbetween. No credit card changes hands, you're not committed to buying a day of time for 20 dollars, and you're not relying upon the kindness of strangers. You're paying for your internet access, and it's as always-on and always convienient as at home. If you want to just log on and check your mail quickly, you can do just that.

Hahahaha. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11743038)

Has 'free Internet access' finally arrived?

Short answer, no.

Shrinking market? (4, Interesting)

Stripsurge (162174) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743049)

Any thoughts as to how adoption of city wide government funded wi-fi will play into this? I seem to recall hearing about a few major cities, Philly comes to mind, having done this or at least are in the process of implimentation. I'm wondering how long it'll be before the majority of cities adopt universal wi-fi at the cost to taxpayers making this new service obsolete.

free ? well .... (1)

ImaRootofALLEVIL (623740) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743061)

the default configured access point thats in the apt complex next door is better on the free scale and its far more *nix compatable

i will not fire up wine (if it works...) to view ads for connecting to a hotspot

UK dialup (3, Informative)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743072)

In the UK for dialup, you pay only for the local call. This money is then split between British Telecom and the ISP.

There are no additional fees from the ISP and most give you POP3 email, a couple of email aliases and sometimes a small amount of web space.

Not totally free, but pretty close to it (and no adverts either).

Re:UK dialup (1)

know1 (854868) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743222)

that is an option but not the> option

Re:UK dialup (1)

earthbound kid (859282) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743238)

Europeans keep bringing this up, but if you do the math, you're still getting screwed compared to Americans. We haven't paid by the minute for local calls in 20 years, so our costs for dial-up really aren't comparable.

Someone on another thread said 2 or 3p/minute for a local call, right?

2~3p=5 * 60 minutes = $3/hour.

That's not a good deal for dialup. AOL offered $5/hour to Americans back in like '96. If you use the internet more than 7 hours per month, you're better off paying the American standard rate of $20 for unlimited dial up.

This rate became the standard in America back during 1997.

Europeans really need to stop bringing up these "free" dial-up plans, because they're a worse deal that even terrible mom n' pop ISPs over here. That we have always had free local calls is the whole reason the internet got popular so much more quickly in America. If we had being European rates all along, the internet would have developed very differently.

WiFi hotspots and payment (2, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743096)

I already pay enough to my ISP, so I never bother with those pay-for-access WiFi hotspots that cafes and airports have. (Our local airport on the other hand has free WiFi). If the WiFi hotspot is not free, I use the GPRS service on my mobile phone because it's already paid for. It may be slow, but it does for email and web surfing.

The trouble with the pay for access WiFi hotspots (at least here) are most of them are extortionate. The minimum charge at, say, Gatwick Airport is GBP/5. You can't buy less than a one hour block. Those 'payphone style' Internet kiosks are cheaper, and you can buy just 15 minutes worth which is enough to check email (and you don't have to use up your laptop's battery).

If I ran a cafe, I'd allow free wifi with a purchase. It'd be something extra to differentiate my shop from the competition.

Ubiquitous Wireless? (-1, Flamebait)

chrisbeatty (811646) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743100)

Is it just me or is all this wireless tech good for us??

Living near power lines is known to be bad, but what about Wi-Fi access points?? or mobile phone masts??

The idea of all this extra stuff floating around *almost* worries me, is having too many signals in the air going to cause long term health problems??

resedit! (2, Interesting)

macman552 (675277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743129)

ahh the good old days. I remember resediting my mac app for free dialup so the ads went bye-bye and i had total free internet. I also changed the version number, but that was a bad idea. I got an email from a developer at the company wondering why i had a copy of the 2.999999 software when the software was at 1.2 or something like that... hehe. I was very sad when that went under.

Heh... (5, Informative)

404notfound (467950) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743139)

I remember using NetZero before, and I did something (what, exactly, escapes me) where I popped open taskman and hit 'end task' at a specific point during connection -- or something -- which allowed me to have free internet access without any ads. It worked great for fullscreen activities like Diablo 1 and Starcraft (shows you how long ago I was pulling the trick).

well... (0, Offtopic)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743140)

Are you with us, chuck [slashdot.org] ?

Free... he he he (1)

kaelli (861669) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743162)

I don't know about free ISP's. I do know my neighbor makes a great ISP. It's free. He has wireless and lets everyone use it! At no charge, bandwidth restrictions or anything like that. :) Makes people like me happy!

World-wide (1)

dadjaka (827325) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743176)

What I would really like to know is: When will I get it in Australia? It's like Apple's Music Store. It's a great concept, but us Aussies can't have it! (simply - you can get around it by going to the US on holiday) It might be great for the US, but it won't affect me. (I reckon I'll get modded down for this. See you at -1)

In other words... (1)

fpedraza (757989) | more than 9 years ago | (#11743184)

the return of the dot com crack.
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