Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Getting Online with a Discounted Internet Service Provider

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Getting Online with a Discounted Internet Service Provider

Article excerpt

Broadband may be the cutting edge in Internet access, with cable and DSL modern users surfing the Net at blazing speeds. But you pay more for this privilege.

Many Internet novices are America Online subscribers. AOL is the world's largest Internet service provider (ISP) and succeeds by offering new users with an easy way to get online, providing its own content as well as access to the larger Internet, and saturating nonsubscribers with mailings of its discs.

But AOL is the most expensive way to access the Internet using a dial-up phone line, with a price of $23.90 per month for unlimited access. If users are looking to economize, they can do better.

The two largest value-priced ISPs are NetZero (www.netzero.com) and Juno (www.juno.com), both offerings of United Online, a company created when the two services merged in September 2001. About a year later United Online bought another discount ISP, Bluelight, from Kmart Corp.

All three services provide unlimited Internet access. So unlike some other discount services, users are not limited by the number of hours they can spend online each month. The cost for each service is $9.95 per month. Mac users are restricted to NetZero and Juno.

The latest versions of NetZero and Juno software are virtually identical and use the same access numbers. The only difference between the two, according to a company representative, is that NetZero has access numbers in the United States and Canada while Juno has access numbers only in the United States. Because of brand loyalty, United Online plans to continue both services.

I gave NetZero a whirl using a PC and a 56K modern. It performed well over the course of a week--no busy signals, no dropped connections and good dial-up down-load speeds.

NetZero and Juno have local access numbers nationwide, though as with all ISPs, users need to first check that they do not incur charges from their telephone company, charges that depend on how far the nearest local access number is from the user and on the telephone calling plan.

If you're on a very tight budget, NetZero and Juno also offer access that is totally free (Bluelight doesn't) for PC users. In exchange for not having to open their wallet, however, users may have more difficulty getting past busy signals to connect; will get bombarded with banner ads, pop-up ads, and e-mail ads; will be limited to 10 hours of surfing time per month; and will have less e-mail storage space. …

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