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AltaVista takes on US market with free service

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Less than a year after Freeserve changed the face of Net access in the UK, AltaVista could be about to do the same thing in the US. The monster search engine has launched a subscription-free ISP that could give the whole US market a massive jolt. Called AltaVista FreeAccess, it provides dial-up access to the Internet without charging monthly subscription fees. But unlike many of the subscription-free services in the UK, AltaVista's new service is funded by advertising. A small window called the AltaVista MicroPortal is displayed on the desktop complete with rotating ads and content. According to AltaVista, it only takes up five per cent of desktop space and can be moved around wherever users want it. The service is supported by San Francisco based 1stUp.com, a privately held company that specialises in ad-based ISPs. And it seems Rod Schrock, president and CEO of AltaVista, is not afraid to rock the boat. "Why continue to pay $240 per year or more when a totally free service easily meets your needs?" he said. If the UK example is anything to go by, he should be able to answer his own question by Christmas. ®

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