Alidar Jarok wrote:
There used to be some free Internet services back in the day. NetZero used to offer a free service and I used to use a free service called Juno. I'm sure there were others, but those are all I can remember. I think a lot of it has to do with greed, once people realize they can make money with this.
Or it could be that they appeared right at the end of the dotcom bubble and didn't have a sustainable business model. I used to use Juno. It was horribly slow and filled with pop up ads.
Yes, exactly. It wasn't greed that killed the free services; it was speed. I had some experience with Juno and I could barely stand to use for anything other than checking my email once in a while. Since they weren't charging for their service, they didn't have the money to run a fast, high-capacity system (which costs money, contrary to the belief of some in this thread). Their business model was to get money through ads rather than from subscribers. In effect, subscribers paid for their service by suffering through ads rather than opening their wallets. However, the advertisements weren't very productive, so they couldn't charge much for it and therefore they didn't have much money. People left them because they got sick of all the ads and because the service was so horrible they couldn't use it for anything productive. Basically, the business model failed.
As to the original question, the reason there aren't free ISPs anymore is for exactly the same reason. Providing the service isn't free. The internet doesn't just run itself and provide a pure profit stream for ISPs. It costs money to build/maintain/upgrade the networks and to keep them running. Someone has to pay for that. Currently that's paid for by subscribers. If you want free internet, you need to find another source to pay for that.