[buug] Free DSL?

Christopher Sullivan feedle at feedle.net
Tue Feb 15 15:20:02 PST 2000

On Tue, 15 Feb 2000 ezekielk at iname.com wrote:

> Just learned of a free DSL service available "now" (actually, it takes 30-60 days after registering). This is:
> 	FreeX DSL
> 	http://www.freexdsl.com/
> Their TOS says they can charge a subscriber $500 for opting out before
> 5 years of use...and that, if this company ever provides local or long
> distance phone service, or cable service, that subscribers to their DSL
> must switch their phone/cable service over to them. This sounds way
> over the top, and may ruin their chances of winning the free-DSL
> wars...which I guess will soon burst upon the scene. They *do provide,
> free of charge, the hardware needed to connect.

Ouch.  So, what this means is, when we offer $50/month local dialtone, you
must subscribe to it if you want to keep your "free" DSL service.

Call it a hunch, if there are no up-front guarantees as to how much these
services will cost, they will be considerably more expensive than what the
incumbant providers charge.

> However, Broadband Digital Group (BDG) also will offer free DSL service
> by April. I have already registered, to beat the rush.
> 	http://www.freedsl.com/
> In their TOS, they say: "BDG, at its sole discretion, may control the
> content you may view through its network based on its business
> relationship with various content providers and other partnership
> agreements." But canceling subscription does not include and financial
> punishment.

... but they may restrict your access if, say, Yahoo! makes a deal
blocking access to AskJeeves.  They may also censor access if one of their
"business relationships" decides they don't want you seeing hotchix.com or
downloading MP3s through Napster.

This brings up some very interesting points about free Internet providers
in general, not just Free DSL ones.  How much data mining are the
performing on your traffic?  How much personal information are they
gathering about you?  

Most free 'net providers have provisions in their service agreements that
specify that they reserve the right to "collect and distribute.."
information about you, your browsing habits, and your online purchases.
Even if you circumvent their provided software, it is still plausable that
a lot of data mining could be occurring.

Are you willing to sacrifice, completely, your privacy on the net, in
exchange for $50/month?  This seems an awfully low price to put on your
online privacy.

Now, I know that there are ways that PBI could probably be doing the same
thing with my traffic. However, there is a certain legal precident that
makes this of questionable legality in the first place.*  Also, a
conventional provider is working for ME, after all, I'm paying the bill.
Finally, since they have no control over what operating system I use (let
alone what name servers I look at, or even what protocols I run) it is
probematic at best for them to obtain a complete picure of my usage.

I haven't even touched on paralegal elements of the way free ISPs work.
If a cracker wanted to steal your identity, how hard would it be if they
broke the proxying technology the ISP uses?  They'd now know not only the
information you signed up with, but your online habits, online accounts,
and maybe even debit/credit card information.

I don't trust free Internet providers.  They are under no obligation to
provide you any service, and you are under no obligation to demand
privacy.  It's a "trojan horse" to your personal data.  I find it
fascinating that some of the free DSL providers are either outright owned
by direct-mail marketers (like bluelight.com), or have DMA members as
investors (like worldspy.com... why do you think they call it worldspy,

You don't think they're doing this to be nice, do you?

> Can I still use a standard modem, alongside my DSL service? Or does
> installing DSL interfere with modem use on same line?

DSL does not affect normal use of the phone.  A conventional modem is
within the definition of "normal use."
> I presently make use of numerous free ISP's...including one or two
> which I can fudge to work via Linux. I am a freebie hound, especially
> when it comes to Internet access. I think in a few more months, more
> free DSL options will be available, without such harsh TOS.

To me, any loss of my privacy is a harsh TOS term, especially when it's
for a service that costs so little compared to the quantity of enrichment
I get from it.  $50 for Internet access, compared to my $400 monthly
grocery bill, is a bargain.

My privacy is not for sale for such a low bid.


* There was an incident in the 80's regarding cable companies selling
viewship data to the Neilson ratings company.  It was decided that doing
this without notification and agreement by the customer was not legal.  It
is likely (I haven't read the decision, nor am I a lawyer) that this
ruling would apply to an Internet provider, given their common law status
as a "common carrier."

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