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Free High Speed Net Access... What's the Catch?

Techstination feature for Thursday, April 6, 2000

Free high-speed access to the net. Is it for real? I'm Fred Fishkin with Bootcamp, a report on computers and technology. It sounds too good to be true and maybe it is, but a company called Broadband Digital says it is starting to hook its first customers up for a service it calls FreeDSL... .

"The initial cities we're launching in are Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago, with the coverage extending to twenty markets by mid-year and forty major markets by year end."

26 year old company president Ryan Steelberg. DSL or digital subscriber line service typically costs at least 40 dollars a month and is currently only available in a fraction of the households around the country. So what's the catch? How does FreeDSL plan to make money?

"Well, how we make money is for the free service, which is up to 144 kilobits per second, which is several times faster than your dial-up access, we take some general basic information about you the consumer, we take your first name, your last name and your address, and we develop that... .or... get rid of your name and we push ... we aggregate people into general demographic profiles, without compromising your privacy rights. And then we allow advertisers to target ads to you while you actively surf the web."

Refer ten other people who sign up and even the DSL modem is free. What you are actually doing is selling information about yourself to advertisers. And FreeDSL is hoping you'll want an even faster connection and be willing to pay something for it. You can read the fine print at You can find us at Bootcamp, I'm Fred Fishkin, for CBS News.