RealTime IT News

Italian Fraternity Offers Free Access

For years Italian Internet users have been paying heavy per-minute charges to access service providers through state-owned Telecom Italia phone lines. Recently, however, an innovative service by Net Fraternity allows one to get reimbursed for online charges as well as annual ISP fees.

"Every one should have the opportunity to access the information of the Net," said Net Fraternity president Alberto Vazzoler. "This is the initial concept under which our operation was developed. The question was, how does one provide free service?"

The answer, Vazzoler discovered, was advertising. Net Fraternity contracted a variety of companies--such as Pirelli, Ericsson, and Mediaset--looking to reach Internet users. They then designed a special software package called Netspot which becomes an integrated part of one's online configuration when downloaded.

"After one has filled in the questionnaire on the Web site, they simply download the software," explained Andrea Carobene, a reporter for the Italian edition of INTERNET magazine. "When they next access the Internet, they open Netspot and advertising banners are automatically loaded onto a box which takes up approximately 1/3 of one's standard browser window. It does not effect the browser functions at all."

In addition to changing banners periodically, Netspot records the time a user is exposed to the ads. Net Fraternity will reimburse up to one hour of online time per day. In Italy, that amounts to approximately 1,200 lira of telephone line charges, and 685 lira towards ISP fees. In one month, this calculates to 56,550 lira ($32.50).

When a user has logged $60 worth of online time, they receive a message from Net Fraternity advising that a check is being mailed. At that time they may also remove the Netspot software, if desired, or continue to view the banners and receive free Internet service.

"Our service is not limited to Italy," said Alberto Vazzoler. "Net Fraternity is a global business. The rates for reimbursement are calculated according to the users country of origin.

And how successful is the service? According to Vazzoler, "After only 15 days, we received 50,000 signups in Italy and 250,000 from other parts of the world."

Because of its unique ability to verify the number and time an Internet ad is viewed, Net Fraternity's program and its Netspot software are receiving raves from the world advertising industry. In fact, Vazzoler said the company receives a daily validation certificate from the A.C. Nielsen agency, insuring advertisers that all figures are correct.