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Surfree Redefines Free Internet Access

Borrowing a move from the playbooks of both standard ISPs and those offering free access, a San Francisco-based ISP Monday announced plans to offer members discounted service.

Surfree.com Monday unveiled plans to offer the hybrid access plan that is designed to let members determine how much they pay for their Internet service.

The Surfree.com scheme lets members utilize a proprietary tool, that when activated by a user, sits on their computer screen while they are connected to the Internet. When activated, the tool sends advertisements to Surfree users, although it can be turned off at any time. While online, ads selected for review will result in the reduction their monthly subscription fee.

A simple plan, the more time a user spends online with Surfree.com, the less they will potentially pay for Internet service. Members can view their savings in real time with an online calculator. Surfree.com members', who elect not to use the ad tool, still receive access for under $15 a month.

Adam Portnoy, Surfree.com chief executive officer, said they developed their business model for the service because the free ISP model is flawed.

"We saw the flaws with the free ISP model offered by other companies, so we developed a system that will allow our members to get free service without sacrificing quality," Portnoy said. "Most consumers that sign-up for a free-ISP are using it as an alternate provider because all they offer is Internet access, as opposed to Internet service. They are not really Internet service providers."

Motivated by a membership survey in July, Surfree.com began to develop the hybrid access plan when 80 percent of their subscribers responded that they would like for the ISP to develop a free service plan.

According to the results of the survey, a similar percentage of Surfree.com members said they would be willing to view banner ads and receive monthly emails in exchange for free service, as long as the quality of service remained the same.

The reduced-access plan allows advertisers to deliver targeted messages based on user demographics, while maintaining quality of service expectations for Surfree.com subscribers.

Currently, the Surfree.com technology will operate on Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT operating systems. A Macintosh version will be released soon.

Surfree.com is a virtual ISP, in that it outsources all of its network facilities through partnerships with PSINet Inc. and NaviNet Inc.



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