NetZero launches free mobile broadband service based on Clear's 4G network

By on March 19, 2012, 2:00 PM

NetZero made a name for itself in the late '90s for giving away free dial-up Internet service in the U.S. and offsetting the cost with targeted advertising. Although the company was able to weather the storm after the dot com bubble went bust -- in fact, it later launched a DSL service and still has about 750,000 dial-up subscribers -- it has largely stayed out of the limelight as customers moved on to faster broadband alternatives.

Well, the company is now hoping lure back some budget-conscious customers with a new offer of free wireless broadband. The new NetZero service runs on Clearwire's WiMAX network and unlike the old dial-up service, the free wireless Internet option is ad-free. Apparently, the company is operating the service at a loss with the hope of upselling customers to paying plans after the first year. Paid plans start at $9.95 per month.

As you would expect with an offer of this nature, however, there are a few catches. For starters, users must purchase either a $50 USB stick or a $100 wireless hotspot to sign up for the free offering and pay $20 shipping and handling for either device. The free accounts are limited to 200MB of data per month -- enough for some email and web surfing, but little else -- and they're only good for 12 months of service.

After the free period is up users can opt for one of NetZero's paid plans at $9.95 per month for 500MB, $19.95 for 1GB, $34.95 for 2GB, or $49.95 for 4GB. There are no contracts to sign, and whenever the monthly traffic allotment is exhausted the service is cut off so users don't get slapped with huge overage charges.

By comparison, AT&T cheapest wireless data plan costs $14.95 per month for 250MB and is only available for tablets with built-in cellular modems, while Virgin Mobile offers 500MB of data for $20 per month. Taking that into account NetZero's offerings aren't a bad deal in the $10-20 range if you won't consume a lot of data. For higher tier plans, however, there are better alternatives on the market.

It should be noted that Clear is only available in a limited number of areas, so make sure to check the coverage map before buying in. Coverage is unlikely to improve significantly in the future since Clearwire has stopped investing in WiMAX and is instead raising money for a new network based on LTE technology.




User Comments: 11

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thewind said:

Why is internet getting so expensive? 1Gb for $35! I cant even watch a movie! The only reason for having this is for watch movies. Why? Because if your using it for e-mail use your phone!

Guest said:

You have a funny definition of free, you have to buy the device for 100 bucks and you get 200mb per month at no additional cost for 1 year. How is that free?

peperonikiller peperonikiller said:

200Mb a month... I'd get thru 200Mb in about 2 minutes.. well crap

yRaz yRaz said:

I do about 2-3 hours of web surfing on my phone a day with the full HTML version(not m.website.com) and I have a hard time using all 200mb a month. For the causal user I'm sure it's plenty. Think about how hard it would reach 1gb of data at dial up speeds in a month. These aren't aimed at power users, it's aim at people who only want to check facebook and e mail a few times a day.

Guest said:

For $35.00 a month you can get a broadband cable connection. For less than $100.00 you can buy a wireless N router. If you need to go mobile, there are all sorts of free WiFi spots. I know of 3 within a half of a mile from where I'm sitting.

treetops treetops said:

Wow they are really praying on the uninformed after year 1, heck even in year 1. You can get high speed internet for 20$ a month.

Guest said:

Most people commenting seem to be missing the "mobile broadband" part. This is for mobile internet, plug the USB into a laptop or tablet and have internet on the go... Or bring the hotspot with you anywhere and just plug it in, voila wifi access. This isn't meant to be used as regular internet.

ikesmasher said:

I think this is awesome..Might have to pick one of these up for long road trips and the like.

psycros psycros said:

You know what makes no sense? The fact that nobody offers a wireless package aimed at those who have <b>no other option</b> but cell-based internet. There are tens of millions of Americans living in rural or semi-rural areas whose only choices would be 3G or satellite - and as we all know, satellite isn't <i>really</i> an option. Why hasn't a single company (that I know of) produced an affordable and realistic 3G data plan? My personal definition of that would be $60/mth for unlimited monthly data throttled at 256kbs down/64kbs up. Think that's pathetic? Next to cable, DSL or 4G wireless it may be, but to those who are limited to dial-up (if it even still works where they live) such a service would be almost irresistible. It wouldn't be abused because it wouldn't be fast enough TO abuse. It wouldn't be too expensive if the wireless USB adapter was free on contract. Plus, as cell towers get upgraded that service represents an ever smaller portion of the network load, which makes it more profitable. Heck, I daresay that a lot of road warriors would prefer the plan I suggest to something faster, esp. if they don't like tethering their phones. Its an untapped pile of money waiting to be made by somebody.

Guest said:

Yes, this isn't aimed at the people that want to watch movies or dowmload videos. It's aimed at the casual user that wants to check e-mails or surf the web two or three times a day. For $70.00 and one year free ( comes out to about $5.80 a month ), it might be worth a try.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

You know what makes no sense? The fact that nobody offers a wireless package aimed at those who have <b>no other option</b> but cell-based internet. There are tens of millions of Americans living in rural or semi-rural areas whose only choices would be 3G or satellite - and as we all know, satellite isn't <i>really</i> an option. Why hasn't a single company (that I know of) produced an affordable and realistic 3G data plan? My personal definition of that would be $60/mth for unlimited monthly data throttled at 256kbs down/64kbs up. Think that's pathetic? Next to cable, DSL or 4G wireless it may be, but to those who are limited to dial-up (if it even still works where they live) such a service would be almost irresistible. It wouldn't be abused because it wouldn't be fast enough TO abuse. It wouldn't be too expensive if the wireless USB adapter was free on contract. Plus, as cell towers get upgraded that service represents an ever smaller portion of the network load, which makes it more profitable. Heck, I daresay that a lot of road warriors would prefer the plan I suggest to something faster, esp. if they don't like tethering their phones. Its an untapped pile of money waiting to be made by somebody.

I agree with most of what you said (not sure all because the last 1/3rd I got a little fuzzy on). But my parents fall into that market you are speaking of. WiMax is the answer, and I don't understand how it isn't profitable to place in semi rural areas. I ran some 'best guess' estimates and even picking what I thought to be worst case senarios I didn't really see any way you couldn't make money.

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