Two-For-One Net Access Offered

SAN FRANCISCO (03/06/2000) - Broadband Internet access is great in the home or office, but you still need that dial-up connection when you're on the road. So if you travel, you're stuck paying for an additional account--or are you?

This week Broadband Digital Group announced it would fulfill this need for roaming capabilities by offering its subscribers free dial-up service along with their digital subscriber line connection. And you'll get this access without the banner ads usually associated with free Internet anything.

BDG is expecting to have its FreeDSL service up and running in early April. The service will give you 384 kilobits-per-second DSL Internet access with free installation and no monthly fee. You will still have to buy a DSL modem however, or earn one by convincing ten people to sign up for the service.

You're eligible for the dial-up service as soon as you sign up for DSL and the service is online, even if you're stuck waiting for your DSL connection.

You'll have to look at banner ads when surfing via DSL. Only the dial-up connection is banner-free.

How will BDG make money off of this? Certain Web sites, whose icons appear on FreeDSL's toolbar, will pay BDG for subscribers' clicks. If this sounds like a privacy violation, the company insists otherwise.

"BDG will not be tracking customers in any way, shape or form," promises a BDG spokesperson.

Add-on Handles Access

The toolbar is called the Winfire Browser Assistant, and it's a requirement for both DSL and dial-up access. Winfire dials the number and connects for you. In fact, if you close Winfire, you break your connection, even if it's over a DSL line.

Winfire offers its own interface to the Internet. Companies can create special content for Winfire, so you can access their services without actually going to their Web sites. And you can set up icons on the Winfire taskbar to handle specific Internet tasks.

BDG isn't the only company offering free DSL, and all of them have their catches, of course. For instance, one such company, INYC, is only free if you frequently interact with its banner ads.

On the face of it, FreeDSL looks like a better deal than INYC, especially if you do a lot of traveling and need the dial-up connection. But you'll still have to put up with advertising to get your free connection.

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