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Shopping portal zooms in on free Net revolution

Another free Web service is announced

Shopping portal and Internet service provider (ISP) Zoom.co.uk became the latest Web company to offer completely free Internet access on Wednesday. The service is due to go live in six weeks. The ISP's existing 150,000 members will be able to join completely free. New members will have to pay a one-off £10 joining fee, which will be refunded with a £10 online shopping voucher.

Managing director of Zoom, Eva Pascoe, believes the revolution in Net costs is giving power back to the consumer. "It is fantastic that at the opening of the 21st century, telecommunications are at the centre of the e-commerce revolution on consumer terms, rather than under the control of the telecoms companies," she said.

Experts predict the cost on companies to subsidise free Internet calls could run into millions, but Pascoe is confident that the e-commerce and advertising revenue streams Zoom collects will pay for the service. She also believes consumers won't abuse the service by leaving their computers on 24 hours a day -- there will be an automatic cut-out if the login remains inactive for five minutes.

Pascoe is also confident that the infrastructure will cope. No limit is being put on membership, although Zoom may review this if it is inundated with subscribers.

Sign-up for the service will start in four to six weeks.

Find out more about free Internet access in our Unmetered Access Guide.

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