Surfing for nix

By now, most people are aware that you can get a free e-mail address, Web page and even disk storage space (see this month's Annual Best Free Stuff Online, page 78) once you're connected to the Net, but think you still need to pay for your online time to use these services. If you happen to have glanced at the back of a bus or taxi lately, though, you will probably have noticed ads for the latest Net phenomenon - the free ISP.

Chances are that if you mainly want a Net connection for e-mail and occasional surfing, or you just want to see what it's all about, you can take advantage of a free ISP. For those who use the Net more regularly and for a wider range of things, a free ISP can still be useful. I worked out that by using a free ISP to supplement my paid online time, I could cut my monthly access costs by 50 per cent or more. It is a bit of a hassle to switch connections, but nothing I could not live with for the savings involved.

To put the bottom-line up front, the concept behind free ISPs is simple enough. Rather than dialling into an ISP that charges you money for the time you spend online, these services provide you with a free connection to the Net. The catch? Basically, the catch is that you get to look at advertising in one form or another. There are other ways to connect to the Net for free (see "Other roads to Net freedom").

- Something for nothing

- Free range

- E-mail access

- Support and service

- Avoid the ads

- The future for free ISPs

- Other roads to Net freedom

- Free ISP round-up: Go Connect, Global Freeway, Hop On, Free.Net and FreeOnline compared

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