Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apparently NetZero is still a thing that exists

From a time when AOL was king and people thought the neo-swing would last forever.
Credit: Wikipedia.

That, or I was hallucinating that commercial I saw yesterday. For the people who were too young or just might not remember, NetZero was one of many ISPs that popped up during the late 90s and while it was never as popular as the former monolith that was America Online, NetZero did have a unique approach to getting customers - free internet access. Yeah, "free". In the words of the immortal Robert A. Heinlein, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" and NZ was no exception. Sure, they gave you free internet, but it was ad-supported, which is to say that you had to choose between a toolbar (which you couldn't disable) and a banner that displayed ads. It was an idea that resulted in big successes, as the company netted a million subscribers.

Then the dotcom bubble burst and NetZero got real...selective about their "free" service. You might even say stingy. They established a 40 hour limit on their "free" internet and anyone who exceeded it was encouraged to sign up for a premium service where they got unlimited service for like ten bucks. Not too bad, really, until they dropped the limit by 30 hours and then it just became a joke, one not as funny as the commercial they aired during the economic crash a few years ago, where they actually encouraged people to ditch broadband for their "3G" service. And by 3G, I mean dial-up. Yeah, they were not only still doing dial-up long after it had became obsolete, but they even  repackaged it in the hopes that people would downgrade back to it.

The company's proposal is just mind-blowing in its stupidity. Dial-up isn't just obsolete, it just isn't viable for the modern era of the internet. Sure, if you only use the internet for email and light stuff like that, then you should get by fine, but if you want to do anything with YouTube, Tumblr, what have you, then you're up the shit creek without a paddle or even a boat. Their play was ballsy, but much like Chiaotzu's suicide attack on Nappa, it was doomed to failure.

I was as surprised then as I was years later when I saw another one of their commercials, this time for a wifi equipment and the idea that you could doll out a gig of bandwidth to friends and family. According to Engadget, there are various data plans with the most expensive being fifty bucks a month for 4gigs of bandwidth. I honestly have no idea if that's a lot (I won't pretend to be a tech geek), but I feel like most people would blow through that like Lindsay Lohan goes through coke. That probably opens the door for them to charge you more. Additionally, and this is probably the most critical part, you have to be in a 4G coverage area.

I still can't believe that company is still around. Then again, so is AOL for reasons that may never be explained, but possibly involve pacts with the Old Gods.

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