Giant Joins Free ISPs Ranks

Services offering free Internet usually come with a catch - the user has to put up with a toolbar at the top or bottom of the browser window that displays banner ads. But it’s a small price to pay considering the current rates for web access – around $20 per month. The major complaint about these free ISPs, however, is that they don’t offer the service and the reliability of "name brand" access.

In response to this demand for quality at a lower cost, AT&T announced last week AT&T WorldNet Service i495. The ad-subsidized web access plan combines the company’s full compliment of services - six e-mail IDs, up to 60 megabytes of web space for personal Web pages, IM, chat, calendar services, anti-spam and child protection software, and online communities - with customized advertising in return for the lower price of $4.95 a month for 150 hours and $0.99 for each additional hour.

AT&T says consumers will be asked to first fill out a profile with information such as hobbies and interests at the time of registration, to allow for delivery of advertising tailored to their unique preferences.

Also during the registration process the user’s computer is assigned a unique, anonymous ID number which allows AT&T’s ad-serving partners, freeinternet.com and Predictive Networks, to track the URLs that are visited and provide targeted ad delivery.

Personally identifiable information, such as e-mail address and phone number, is not linked with the tracking data and is not shared with any third party.

What does this mean for advertisers? Better targeting – ads are delivered independently of the browser window in a toolbar, which allows for continuous exposure regardless of where the consumer goes online.