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IFX Heads South with Free Net Access

Following the wave of free ISP migration, and IFX Corp. Monday added free service to its ISP strategy with an eye on the Latin American market.

IFX Corp. (FUTR) plans to bring free Net access to the entirety of Latin America in mid-February. The ISP currently offers its paid service to a significant percentage of the region, but plans to use its network and create a new subsidiary to target the market.

The company will first roll out access in 100 cities throughout Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico. IFX Corp. eventually aims to enter a total of 13 countries, each of which is currently served by IFX's network.

IFX also plans to create a local content portal to accompany the free service. Mike Shalom, IFX's chief executive officer, explained that the company's overall goal is to bring the Internet to the Latin American population.

"Currently, less than 2 percent of the region is using the Internet, as evidenced by the approximately 4 million registered accounts," Shalom said. "By providing free Internet access service we expect to have 800,000 subscribers by the end of 2000 and 2 million subscribers by 2001."

IFX sees revenue streams coming from advertising, auctions, content, and e-commerce, and points to IDC's recent projection of a $8 billion e-commerce market in Latin America by 2003 to support its decision to enter the free ISP realm.

The company said it will continue its other corporate services such as dedicated phone lines, Web hosting, and domain name registration. IFX Corp. also owns minority stakes in Yupi Internet Inc. and Telcom.Net LP. IFX offers ISP services through its subsidiary Emerging Networks, under the banner brand of Unete.

IFX has Internet operations in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela and the United States.