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Small ISP disappears

USFreeway promised customers free Net access for a one-time fee but has since disappeared.

USFreeway promised customers free Net access for a one-time fee but has since disappeared.

Confused USFreeway customers say they were promised free Internet service after paying $20 for a start-up kit and $5 for shipping. But many never received the start-up kit or got their money back, and now USFreeway's Web site is gone, along with its phone number.

It's not clear when the small Internet service provider opened for business, but customers were sent email throughout this month and last saying that a company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, called BOSnet would be taking over USFreeway's contracts with customers.

"USFreeway was forced to discontinue using the USFreeway name due to a trademark dispute. BOSnet Communications (our backbone network provider) has agreed to acquire all of USFreeway's customers effective immediately. Your start-up software kit including Netscape Navigator Gold is on its way to you," stated the letter, which was forwarded to CNET by three customers.

But some consumers said they have never received a software kit from BOSnet either. One did say he was able to log on to the Net through BOSnet using a password and ID sent in the note.

BOSnet did not return repeated phone calls from CNET. Customers said their calls were not returned either, though the company still has a Web site posted. When trying to contact BOSnet about the missing software or billing problems, callers can either leave a recorded message or call a toll-free technical-support line.

BOSnet's technical-support number offers this message: "USFreeway's name and number will be changed. If you have previously placed an order, please look for an email from us soon."

Dell Elzey of Oklahoma City signed up for two USFreeway accounts in February. He's now out $50 and hasn't seen one minute of Net access from either USFreeway or BOSnet.

"I talked to the FBI on Monday, and they won't doing anything for something involving such a small amount of money," Elzey said today. "These people at USFreeway know what they're doing. The only recourse is that some people are getting their money back from their credit card companies."

The North Carolina attorney general's office on consumer protection had no documented complaints in its system about USFreeway or BOSnet as of today. Elzey says he's given up and will not file a complaint.

Bernard Kasparas of New York turned the matter over to his credit card company's fraud investigation department. He signed up for USFreeway in March and has never received service or a start-up kit from BOSnet.

"They took my credit card information and said they would send the software in three weeks but never did. Then on April 9 USFreeway charged me another $5. Now I've canceled that card," Kasparas said.

Another customer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has been able to log on to BOSnet.

"They emailed me an ID, password, and a list of phone numbers. I have successfully logged in to BOSnet with the information provided. So, at this point, I do not think it is scam.

"However, I have not received the software they promised, and my credit card was charged $40 instead of the $25 that the ad said," he added. "Their regular price was supposed to be $40 before this promotion. Even at $40, I think it is a great bargain, assuming they don't charge my credit card anymore."