Time was, in Britain, that you had to pay through the nose to access and surf the Internet. But things are changing.
The first Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the UK to offer dial up access through an 0800
free number was X-Stream, but
that was only for certain times on certain weekends. But they have been running a trial recently, having free access twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. So, the catch? They need to make their money somehow, and they make theirs by putting a banner across the top of
your screen when you dial in through them. They then sell the advertising space to companies, and this pays for your phone call. It is completely free, and therefore as you would expect, very busy.
At times you can get connected on the first try, at others it can take a very patient hour to get connected.(at the very least! Ed.) But hey, once you're online you just stay online right? Wrong. They disconnect you after around two hours. Then you have to reconnect, and that takes yet more time. So that means that you can connect for nothing, but can you to make profit?
Other companies are using the same banner method. You sign up with them and they put a banner of adverts on your screen. They then pay you per hour for surfing the Internet with their banners visible. The amount you get paid varies between the companies. Some pay $0.50
an hour, others pay £0.30 an hour. They all put a limit on how many hours you can claim for and a minimum amount you need to earn before they'll send a cheque out, which is usually $20. But if you don't earn that in one month the balance you have is carried over to the next. And, to make a little bit extra cash, if you refer a friend to the companies, then you get paid a small amount for each hour that they spend online. So, if any of you sign up, tell 'em I sent you.(or me! Ed.)
To get around the 'maximum hours' limit you can
just start using a different banner company once you've reached your limit with the first. You could run more than one banner at a time, but you'd end up with no screen space left for your browser, and the banners do check that you are actually surfing and not just running up credit while watching the television.
So where are these companies? Well the main one is www.alladvantage.com, they seem to have been running longer and are a little sleeker than the over sites, and are actually up
and running. Next up is www.sharkhunt.com, a very flash looking site and promises to be really good, in two to three months when they are up and about. Next on the list I've searched out
is www.gotoworlduk.com, but they were having lots of 404 and 500 errors when I tried to sign up, and that isn't a good sign. Then there is www.surfmiles.com, I went along, signed up, received an email with my user number and password, and was then told that
the banner bar thing wasn't ready yet!
All in all, it looks like the UK may at last be somewhere approaching where getting onto the Internet doesn't involve mortgaging your daughter. Not quite yet however. Hopefully soon
though, as I just got the phone bill last week!