Is there a Free Lunch?
I'm cheap. Right now, I pay $14 a month for 56k dialup access to a local
ISP. Recently, some ISPs have offered free 56k Internet access. I decided
to take a look at some of the offerings in the free ISP world, and decide
whether they could replace my pay Internet service.
The major differences between the ISPs in terms of features are ads and E-mail
access. Some of the free services depend on ads for their revenue. The ads
generally are in a window that takes up some of your screen real estate,
and is always on top. Another important difference is the method of E-mail
access. POP E-mail allows the use of a program such as Outlook Express (free!),
Eudora, or another app resident on your PC to access E-mail. Web based E-mail
is read through the browser. I prefer POP E-mail because I can download and
filter my mail with my E-mail application. Others prefer web e-mail because
it is available from any machine on the Internet.
I signed up and accessed each of the Internet services above.
I took notes on any interesting restrictions in the EULA, and what sort of
personal information they asked for. I took a look at how many access numbers
were in my area (Northern Virginia), and looked at how easy it was to set
up the dialing number (I need 10 number dialing). I dialed up a couple of
times, did a little web browsing, and tried to play Quake III (demo of course)
on line. I also attempted to launch my Internet connection from Quicken 2000
Deluxe (Not a free app). I didn't perform any large file download tests because
the amount of testing that would be required to get a meaningful result would
be too large, and results might vary by user location. For those that care,
I used a US Robotics 56K ISA PnP faxmodem for my tests (not a Winmodem).