Microworkz.com Corp. announced late last week that it would begin offering free Internet access to all personal computer users in the U.S. beginning October 31, 1999.
The Seattle-based firm, which makes the $199 iToaster device to access the Internet, said that as a result of a $300 million (US $) deal with AT&T, it will offer 150 hours a month of Internet access to users with modem speeds up to 56 kilobits per second. In return, they would agree to allow banner advertisements to be on their browsers as long as they’re connected to the Internet. Those who do not want to see the ads have the option of signing up for the company’s premium access package for $11.99 a month — without a prepayment commitment.
“We’ve said from the beginning that we would bring both computers and the Internet to everyone,” said Rick Latman, Microworkz.com’s chief executive.
Mr. Latman added that in the 21th century, access and low-priced computers would be “staple components in every person’s life.”
The offering will begin with current Microworkz.com computer owners August 21st. Users will get around-the-clock telephone technical support, an e-mail account and 3 MB of storage space for personal Web pages. In addition, Microworkz.com will be offering free instant messaging software and chat compatibility as part of the free service.
Is Free Access Spreading?
Microworkz.com joins a number of companies such as Compaq Computer, Gateway Inc. and Dell Computer that are giving free Internet access — although their free access is tied to the purchase of a computer rather than banner ads.
This move toward free access is already in full bloom in the U.K. It was fueled by Freeserve, an Internet-access service owned by Dixons Group Plc., Britain’s largest electronics and appliance retailer. Earlier this year, it began to offer free Internet access to residents of Britain. As a result — in just three months — Freeserve has skyrocketed into first place with more than 1.4 million users in the U.K. Both Microsoft and America Online have followed Freeserve’s lead in the U.K. by also offering free Internet access.
Last week, Microsoft said that it was also considering offering free Internet access to PC users in the U.S. Some industry experts contend this is currently an idle threat designed to tweak its rival America Online.
Dispute With Earthlink
In an unrelated development, Internet Service Provider, Earthlink Network Inc., said last week that it was suing Microworkz.com for allegedly failing to pay money owed under a deal to bundle one year of Internet access with its low-cost computers.
Microworkz.com said it would counter sue Earthlink, alleging that the ISP supplied faulty software and inadequate technical support.