The group, run by Free Speech Television, sent a letter last week to its 20,000 members, saying that it is discontinuing its free service Oct. 7 but will continue its paid service. It encouraged members to transfer sites to paid accounts. The letter called the change to service a "difficult decision," particularly in the face of last week's terrorist attacks in the United States.
Freespeech.org "is nonprofit, and the number of sites we host has grown to the point that the technical and financial burdens are too great for us to continue," the letter said. "We need to refocus our efforts."
Free Speech Television is the latest Web host to attempt to move its customers from a free service to a paid one. Last week, Yahoo made an aggressive move to shift its GeoCities users to paid Web-hosting services. The Web portal told GeoCities members it would disable Web sites that exceeded certain bandwidth limits.
"Web hosting has been growing in such a rapid pace that it was taxing our manpower and our financial and technical resources," said Brian Drolet, director of Internet projects at Free Speech Television. "It was an awkward moment for us to implement the decision because we're aware of the need for people to be able to express themselves, (but) we're trying to continue to make a really inexpensive hosting service available."
Free Speech Television said it's offering service for $8.35 per month, including 100MB of storage space, additional streams, higher bandwidth, technical support and no pop-up ads. The company said that for an additional $25, it would provide a certificate for a free dish network receiver and satellite antenna.
The company said that members who do not sign up for paid service or find a new host will have their sites deleted; the company will be unable to provide access to old files after Oct. 7.