U.K. ISP 'pays' users to sign up for free

A U.K. start-up company took the concept of free ISPs one step further Tuesday by promising subscribers to its service a financial stake in the company.

Taking a timely swipe at Dixon's Freeserve flotation plans, Hague Limited, the holding company for ISP themutual.net will put 50 per cent of the businesses up for grabs when it launches the service in July.

The first 10,000 subscribers to themutual.net will receive 10,000 units in the company, while the next 500,000 will receive 1,000 units. The next million subscribers will receive 500 units each while the next five million subscribers will get 200 units.

The company is currently taking pre-registration email addresses at www.themutual.co.uk in its attempt to off load the 2.1 billion units it has allocated to potential subscribers. Units will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

"Customers will be able to realise the value of their equity once the company is sold, floated or at an earlier stage at the discretion of the directors," according to a company statement.

Executive chairman Clive Sinclair-Poulton said that Hague has basically "borrowed the concept of the co-operative and applied it to the latest technology business. We charge nothing and will let our people share in our success. It's a golden opportunity."

Dresdner Kleinwort Benson Research claimed that by the end of next year, a free U.K. ISP with around two million subscribers would be worth around £2.1bn.