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BellSouth offers free email

The ISP joins the portal sites by offering free Web-based email, which it hopes will help attract Net access customers and others.

Telecommunications firm BellSouth today joined the free email wars, offering the service to its existing customers and anyone else who wants it.

While nearly every Internet gateway or "portal" site has free email in an attempt to lure customers on a regular basis, Internet service providers have largely stuck with the "traditional," non-Web-based POP (Post Office Protocol) email.

By offering the Portalopoly free Web-based email, powered by Bigfoot, in addition to the standard service, BellSouth hopes to make its service more attractive.

Many Netizens establish free Web-based email accounts at sites such as Yahoo and Hotmail so they can log onto their accounts when on the road or at work.

That way they can get access to their email from any computer with Web. But by doing that, they could miss email sent to their ISP accounts.

BellSouth, which provides Internet access service to 235,000 customers, is hoping that its service will provide a solution to that problem by offering email both ways. But the move also could beef up its brand name by enticing even noncustomers into getting a BellSouth email account.

America Online also is in the process of rolling out Web-based email for its customers to provide the same convenience.

But aside from convenience, the offer of free email might help convince some users to sign up for the service because they don't risk losing their email address should they leave.

Many free email providers tempt users by saying they can offer permanent email addresses that are not dependent upon the user staying at a job or keeping an account with a particular ISP or online service.