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BOSnet users left in the lurch

The ISP that took over USFreeway's customers in March is now itself out of business.

Hundreds of frustrated Net users have been left out in the cold. Again.

BOSnet Communications, the Internet service provider that took over for USFreeway customers in March, has now gone out of business itself.

Jock Schowalter, one of the owners of WebServe, which earlier this month took over 30 corporate clients of BOSnet, confirmed that the ISP is no more. BOSnet's attempts to sell the rest of the subscriber list have failed, he added.

BOSnet representatives, including president John Wind, could not be reached for comment. The company's telephones have been disconnected.

The now-defunct service was bombarded with hundreds of phone calls a day since it took over former USFreeway customers in March. Customers complained that they never received their start-up kits or were billed incorrectly after paying a one-time fee of $25 to $45 for Net software.

Dell Elzey, an Oklahoma City resident, who says he has already paid for two USFreeway accounts he purchased, fears that BOSnet's owners have "taken the money and run."

He and others have not been able to log on for about a week, Elzey said.

"They changed the passwords," he said. "That's a good way to get rid of everybody. Everybody was taken."

Elzey said he knows that some customers are talking about organizing a class action, "but I don't know what good that will do."

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office received four out-of-state complaints from customers who were overbilled or were unable to connect, according to Harriet Worley, an assistant attorney general. She said she's been forwarding complaints by mail and will do what she can but fears that that isn't much.

Elzey said he was billed $45 instead of $25 for each of his accounts. That's a lot for what was originally billed as a free service. When he first saw the USFreeway ads, Elzey thought "it was a pretty neat deal. They were going to do like television--supply free access and you'd have ads on your screen."

But as with a lot of things that look too good to be true, it was.

Earlier this month, WebServe bought out BOSnet's corporate clients, including Time Warner's local operations, local telephone company U.S. LEC of North Carolina, and Nucor Corporation, a national steel company.

Schowalter said WebServe had no interest in buying the dial-up clients.

While BOSnet's closure signals how difficult it is for ISPs to make it in this market, the company also had financial trouble, according to the Charlotte Observer.

In April, Centura Bank sued Wind and his businesses over an unpaid $300,000 bank debt, according to the Observer. Wind told the newspaper he had been hoping to sell the dial-up accounts and about $80,000 in equipment.

Reporter Courtney Macavinta contributed to this report.