E-mail access

Another thing to watch for is access to your POP mail account. If you have an existing account with a regular ISP, then you probably use a program like Netscape Mail, Eudora or Outlook Express to access your e-mail from a POP server. Some free ISPs do not allow POP access, so you would not be able to get e-mail from your regular ISP e-mail account using those services.

You can access POP mail using a Web-based mail service through a free ISP - most Web-based mail services support POP mail collection (e.g., Yahoo! Mail mail.yahoo.com and POP3Now www.pop3now.com).

One thing you cannot avoid paying for, even with a free ISP, is your phone call charges. Free ISPs are generally focused on the major cities, but two (Global Freeway and Hop On) offer significant support for more rural areas either via remote dial-in points or a local call charge only number. If you live in a non-metropolitan area, this is important, as call charges can often exceed the cost of your online time if you are dialling STD.

Mac users are limited in their choice of free ISP at the moment, with only one offering support (Free Online); however, the others are planning to offer Mac support in the near future.

All the free ISPs reviewed offered users e-mail accounts in one form or another, with some offering multiple e-mail addresses on the same account. One of the five free ISPs reviewed offers users a free Web page with 5MB of space (Hop On), and two others (Free.Net and Go Connect) plans to do so later in the year.