RealTime IT News

Juno Wants You!

Don't expect to see large posters of a stern gentleman pointing at you at your local five and dime anytime soon, but Juno Online Services is looking for a few good men (and women).

Juno subscribers will be getting an email within the next several weeks, asking them if they want to volunteer for the Internet service provider's controversial virtual supercomputer program.

To get as many testers as it can, officials will ask both its paying and free customers to participate in the field tests before it makes the program mandatory for all its free Internet customers down the road.

Gary Baker, Juno spokesperson, emphasized the supercomputer project will never become a requirement for the ISPs paying subscribers, although the service is now mentioned on its service agreement site (under section 2.4).

"We are moving ahead and preparing in the next several weeks to rollout an invitation to our total subscriber base, free and billable, to see how many people are interested in volunteering to participate in this," Baker said. "And we will then use that volunteer group to execute several concepts and implementations (of the virtual supercomputer program).

"We have made a commitment that the virtual supercomputer program will not be required for our billable service," Baker continued. "At the same time, we want the option to be able to do that (for our free customers), so we included it in the terms of service."

According to Baker, the ISP's service has met with interest from the business community, prompting Juno to get started on testing.

"We are moving ahead with it and have got a very good response from a number of companies in this space, either potential business partners or potential customers," Baker said.

The supercomputer program has met with consumer backlash since the ISP quietly placed the new terms for free service on its terms of service site Jan. 18.

In exchange for free Internet service, customers agree to download a program that performs computational programs similar in scope to the popular Seti@Home and Folding@Home projects.

Customers need to keep their home PCs up and running 24/7 to allow the program to work, in addition to allowing the program to upload and download data from Juno servers on a regular basis.

There's also indirect costs incurred for people who opt to participate in the supercomputer program, which Juno has addressed in its TOS.

"You agree that, as between you and Juno, you shall be responsible for any costs or expenses resulting from the continuous operation of your computer, including without limitation any associated charges for electricity..."

It's a matter of what customers are willing to pay for free Internet access.

Juno, one of the few remaining free ISPs in the nation, took a different approach than the one taken by national free ISPs NetZero Inc., and BlueLight.com.

NetZero and BlueLight both put caps on the amount of hours a person can use its service for free. After a specified amount of time has elapsed, the service is either shut off or customers are billed for the over-use.

Juno doesn't intend to put a cap on its user's Internet time, but clearly wants to show a profit for its benefice. Selling out CPU power is one of the methods it plans to make free use pay.