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End of the road for CyberFreeway

Cheap Net access for life may sound like a sweet deal. The trouble is the party never seems to last.

Cheap Net access for life may sound like a sweet deal. The trouble is the party never seems to last.

CyberFreeway promised to dole out all-you-can-eat Internet service for a one-time fee of $29.95 in December. But next Thursday, the short-lived bargain is coming to an end.

"Due to circumstances beyond CyberFreeway's control, we will be unable to continue offering Internet services after July 3, 1997...You should take all steps necessary to migrate your Internet services to another provider by no later than that date," the company's Web site states.

CyberFreeway's scenario is nothing new in the treacherous world of low-cost Internet access. ISPs have a hard enough time making money when they charge customers the going rate of $19.95 per month. So, obviously, companies that give Net access away face an even tougher challenge when they try to make money through alternative sources such as advertising.

In April, a small telephone company called j3 Communications canceled its three-month stint as a free, advertising-supported Internet service provider but continues to provide long distance service.

Other gimmicks are failing too. Hundreds of frustrated customers complained in April that they never received their lifetime Net access after paying between $25 and $45 to BOSnet Communications and an affiliated company, USFreeway. Now both companies are gone.

CyberFreeway, based in San Jose, California, is a division of Internet company Hyper Net USA. The firm offered free Internet access in return for detailed demographic information about its subscribers. Advertisers used the details to target ads to specific CyberFreeway customers.

"CyberFreeway is going away," confirmed Donald Tuttle, a director of Hyper Net. "It was not financially feasible at this time. But we're going to revisit the whole thing again."

Although CyberFreeway marketed its free service along with a one-time fee, Tuttle said the company never collected a dime from any subscriber.

"We have never charged anyone anything. We wanted to wait and see if it was a viable business first. That goes for our advertisers too, unless the contract was fully consummated."