How does my free ISP support itself?

Here in the Seattle area, we are afforded free 56K internet service through I discovered this through an ad on the back page of our local liberal alternative newspaper.

I can enter any of their many phone numbers, and it works perfectly. No pop-up advertisements, no opening homepage, nothing distracting whatsoever… nothing but the connection itself.

How can this company afford to offer this to us? Is it a government grant or something? It’s a godsend.

Well they do seem to charge $10.00 for tech support. :slight_smile:

They also seem to push their custom dialer software, which sounds like spyware to me. You don’t need any special software to set up a dialup connection.

Yes, exactly. Their software doesn’t seem to have any spyware attached, though. I update and run Ad-Aware & Spybot regularly… and I have used this service for almost three years.

I haven’t needed tech support either. It just works.

I must admit, if you download their “custom dialer software”, your opening homepage is redirected to theirs.

Yes, I use and love No Charge (Issaquah user here). I can also vouch that there’s nothing intrusive about the dial-up software (which isn’t even required). The only minor thing that occurs, as mentioned, is that when connecting via the dialer the first page brought up is no

I also have no idea how they make money off of us free loaders. I just wish more companies would do the same :wink:

Have no idea how they make money, but I did find this interesting

When you say Free Internet Access it means that you don’t pay for the phone charges for the inital call nor the time you’re connected?

If you were being billed for the phone call it would explain where they made their money but if not…?

I’d love to know the answer to this too since every other company that offered this either went belly up or to a pay for use model like Netzero.

Are they perhaps selling their list of users’ email addresses to spammers? Have you started getting a lot of offers for cheap Viagra?

If not, all we’re left with is that old gag about retail: “We lose money on every item, but we make it up on volume.” :wink:

Note that they can be extensively tracking your web use and selling the info to advertizers. There is quite a bit of money in selling detailed info on people’s interests, etc. That said, there probably isn’t enough money to pay for the whole service. Upgrades, $ customer support, etc. is what they are hoping to make money on.

Note that standard dial-up ISPs are vastly overpriced. You can run a decent basic Internet service for around $12 a month max. So there’s a lot of people paying $20+ a month for ISP service that comes with a ton of spyware too. And that’s not even counting crypto-ISPs like AOL.

Do you have to dial a special number? It’s possible that they get a cut of your dialling costs.

They may be, but I’m skeptical as they provide the connection information for you right on the main page. If they really wanted do, they could make it so you could not connect to their servers except via their dialer program.

Perhaps any e-mail address located on their server ( might be vulnerable, but as they do not require an address upon sign-up, I also doubt this. Hell, there isn’t even a ‘sign-up’ process. You just log-on.

Right. The company provides several numbers based in difference area codes. They are akin to regular house lines, no 1-900 numbers, etc. Hell, the company doesn’t even disconnect you from a ‘time-out’ error; I’ve been online with their service for well over 36 hours before, just sitting idle.

From what I can determine, they no longer offer the service in Seattle, and in the places they do offer it, you must be a Qwest customer to use it. It doesn’t look they are doing anything nefarious with your info (they may track sites visited, etc., but do not require you to register, so it’s not tied to an individual).

They do offer an upgrade path, which gives you e-mail among other things, and they also charge $10 for tech support. I’m assuming that’s where they make the bulk of their money, with the possibility that they get a bit of a commission from Qwest, if the above is true. Perhaps Qwest made a deal to try and get additional customers through them.

I’d think that an average of 1 tech support call per month, per person, would cover their costs completely. I can think of one method of “forcing” the issue a bit to gain some revenue. Do they have prolonged downtimes on their free service at random?

They are your ISP, of course they can track every site you visit and every byte of unencrypted data that goes to/from your machine. It has nothing to do with their main page or using their dialer.

You comment is basically the same as saying “The phone company can’t eavesdrop on my conversations since I didn’t dial the operator.”

You data is going thru their machines. Their machines can log whatever they want.

Yes, I know. I was speaking in an invasion of privacy sense. They have no idea who I am, apart from the IP address I possess at that moment in time, which is randomly assigned upon dialing up. I would think it’d be far more valuable to tie the websites being visited to particular individuals to gather demographic data.

Honestly, I’ve used this service for years. There are no downtimes and I’ve never had to call tech support, because it always works.

I’m in Seattle and it is still offered here, yes. They have four Seattle phone extensions and eight others in surrounding communities which are also local calls.

The Seattle area is notoriously generous to the poor and homeless. Perhaps the company is partially financed by our local government to enable internet access for everyone, but I’ve never heard of such a thing.

I’m pretty sure they still provide coverage to most of washington, as indicated on their homepage. I have no problems connecting, and I’m not a Quest customer.

Typical American phone service includes unlimited local phone calls, so that’s not where it’s coming from.

I don’t live in Washington, so have no way to personally verify. I was under the impression that they are no longer in Seattle from here:

I connect via several Seattle numbers. That simply is not true.

Volume. :slight_smile: