United Online (News - Alert) Inc., the company in charge of NetZero, announced yesterday that it will be offering a free wireless broadband package with its NetZero brand. Its marketing strategy for this service includes classy TV, online, and print ads throughout the United States.
There's one thing to know before you start hopping into the bandwagon and paying a full $50 for its proprietary wireless antenna and enjoying its services, though: NetZero doesn't want to keep this plan free forever. You see, with its dial-up packages, NetZero was able to offset the costs of hosting Internet services to its large “free” customer base by providing online advertisements. This time, though, it doesn't give you a single ad, but hopes to upsell you into a paid plan. The plans, according to United Online CEO Mark Goldston, start from just under 10 dollars up.
Additionally, if you'd like to connect multiple computers to the Internet, you'd have to buy its “mobile hotspot” hardware for $100. Currently, the company offers its free plans limiting you to 200 megabytes per month, which gives you sufficient headroom to check your email and do a little bit of surfing on the side, but you'd chomp up all of that precious bandwidth with a single 30-minute 720p video. AT&T (News - Alert) is offering just a little over this - 250 MB per month - for a monthly fee of $14.95. Considering that NetZero's plan is free, who's complaining?
It sounds like a good deal until you realize what NetZero wants to do: Once you've eaten up all of your bandwidth, you're off the hook until the beginning of the next month, at which point NetZero will ask you to upgrade to a paid plan. You can still use this service for a year without paying a dime, though.
Honestly, it isn't such a bad trade-off. After all, they're offering the service for free. However, you can see how the plan might backfire if people are angry about having paid $50 for a modem with the premise that they will have free Internet with it.
But here's the king of good deals: You'll get 500 monthly MB of traffic every month if you sign up for the $9.95 plan. Want something bigger? Try 4 GB per month at a plan costing you $50. That's only 3 times more than what AT&T charges you for 250 MB, and you get to back off the plan whenever you want.
There's an ugly side to all of this, however. The company that United Online uses to rent its wireless broadband is called Clearwire Corp. If you know anything about the company, you'd also know that it doesn't have a network that's quite up to date. The technology it uses for broadband is so outdated that many devices aren't even compatible with it anymore. The signal is also horrible indoors because of its frequency. You're paying $9.95 a month for a signal that might just go its own way while you're at a conference attempting to retrieve something from the cloud.
This is why one of the oldest sayings of capitalism is, “You get what you pay for!”
Edited by Jennifer Russell