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1stUp.com Supports 3.5 Million Free Users

Free Internet access facilitator 1stUp.com Corp. Wednesday confirmed it has signed up more than 3.5 million users through its 70 distribution partners.

Since launching its first private label free Internet access service over seven months ago the CMGI Inc. subsidiary amassed a total subscriber base that edges-out leading free Internet access providers like Net Zero Inc. (NZRO) by about a half-million users.

1stUp.com provides advertising supported free Internet access services for CMGI (CMGI) sister company Alta Vista, @Home Corporation's (ATHM) Excite@Home, and Lycos Inc. (LCOS), as well as other leading Web portals and affinity groups.

1stUp.com contends that it has assembled the largest ISP network in North America, with more than 4,000 dial-up numbers. 1stUp.com's ISP network quickly had to scale its access to support and manage network traffic growth of 40 percent per month over the last four months.

Charles Katz, 1stUp.com president and chief executive officer, said the demand for its sponsor-supported Internet access technology is undeniable.

"The fact that our distribution partners have signed-up over 3.5 million subscribers in such a short amount of time is testament to our commitment to excellence," Katz said. "For 1stUp.com's distribution partners, sponsor-supported access is a valuable mechanism to effectively brand themselves online and increase their own customer numbers, in turn driving revenues."

According to Jupiter Communications Inc. research, 1stUp.com's augmented subscriber base is indicative of consumer demand for a wider choice of options when it comes to connecting to the Internet. In a recent survey commissioned by Jupiter (JPTR) , the firm estimated that 47 percent of U.S. online households would switch to a private-label, affinity ISP if provided with an economic incentive to do so.

Kate von Goeler, Cahners In-Stat Group ISP industry analyst concurs with Jupiter's findings stating that 1stUp.com is a major force driving companies toward online branding of their customers through free e-mail and Internet access.

"By allowing top content players to become top access providers, 1stUp is a key catalyst transforming both industries," von Goeler said. "And it has done so with remarkable swiftness and success."