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Lycos comes to US market with free Net access

Cat well and truly among the pigeons

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Lycos has delivered a massive boost to the free ISP model in the US by announcing its own subscription-free dial-up access service.

The bigshot portal is teaming up with fellow CMGI subsidiary 1stUp.com Corporation, described as a "leading provider of ad-supported Internet access solutions".

AltaVista, also a CMGI subsidiary, already offers a subscription-free ISP service in the US. But Lycos is a much bigger name.

Its move really throws the cat among the pigeons: it will be interesting to see if Lycos can outflank paid-for Internet access services such as AOL or Earthlink, on the one hand, and rival portals such as Yahoo!, Excite, And Go.com.

But free Internet access comes at a cost - someone, somewhere has to pay for this. Otherwise the service is crap. And the punters will go back to paying their $20 or so a month to a more reliable network. However, it is very unlikely that a mass-market ISP in the US could fund such a move by "ad-supported solutions" alone.

So, CMGI must reckon the move is worth it for the market share alone. Page impressions should rocket, simply through accessing the Lycos dial-up service.

Also it gains control over a vertically integrated network (along AOL/Netscape lines), and hence, a certain independence. As Bob Davis, president and CEO of Lycos, says the company has always relied on "an access service to provide that essential connection to the Web".

Lycos says it won't skimp on the free Internet access service which offers "unlimited usage for consumers and small businesses (and is) available to 95 per cent of the US". The service will support up to 56Kbps modems. ®

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