RealTime IT News

BDG Initiates Free DSL Rollout in Five U.S. Markets

Broadband Digital Group Monday began the first phase of its free Digital Subscriber rollout in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif.

BDG launched its Web-based pre-registration site in January and signed-up 750,000 potential DSL customers to date.

Ryan Steelberg, BDG president, said the firm wants to put word-of-mouth advertising to work in expanding its customer base.

"Now that FreeDSL is available in select markets, we anticipate word-of-mouth to spread quickly, bringing even more consumers into the world of high-speed Internet access," Steelberg said.

In order to subscribe to the program, customers must agree to provide personal information to BDG. The information, less the subscriber's name, is sent to marketing and advertising firms for demographic research and trends analysis.

Based on demographic information, subscribers are fed ads to view while online, which is a common feature of most free Internet access offers. Because DSL is a continuous connection, ads are constantly streamed to the half-inch browser assistant for display of an ever-changing banner ad.

The basic free DSL service is available at speeds up to 144 kilobits per second, making it slightly faster than ISDN.

For $10 a month, subscribers can get the same access speed, less the intrusive desktop advertisements. Upgrade packages are available to increase access speeds to 384 kbps for $20 a month or 1.54 mbps $35 a month.

Subscribers must purchase a modem connection kit for $199, which includes all the necessary hardware and software. Customers may receive a free connection kit by referring 10 qualified customers to the service. More than 4,000 people have earned free modems through the referral program to date.

Most incumbent telecom companies are currently offering full-speed DSL services for $40 a month with no charge for the modem or installation frees. The programs usually require a one-year agreement, but the service does not require that customer's give-up private information or place a special browser on a computer's desktop.

BDG has partnered with companies including Efficient Networks Inc. (EFNT) , GTE Service Corp. (GTE), and Williams Communications Inc. (WCG) to provide its free dial-up and high-speed services.

The aggressive free DSL provider intends to provide access to 500,000 subscribers in 40 markets by year-end.