EMachines to end free Internet access

SAN FRANCISCO — EMachines Inc., the low-cost computer maker, took another step away from its "free PC" sales model on Wednesday, informing 25,000 customers it will no longer offer them free Internet access.

The company had adopted a business model in which PCs were given away or sold at very low cost along with free Internet access. In turn, the vendor received revenue through advertisements, marketing and Internet sales deals.

In November 1999, the company acquired FreePC in Pasadena, Calif., which had given away 25,000 PCs and in turn sold customer information to advertisers.

EMachines discontinued the PC giveaway after the FreePC purchase but had continued to provide free Internet access.

The company informed its customers of the change Wednesday in an e-mail blast and named three other Internet service providers that will offer free service.

They are AltaVista Co., BlueLight.com and WorldSpy Corp., according to Steve Chadima, eMachines' vice president of marketing.

"We looked at the cost of providing the service and made a decision to end the program," Chadima said. The free Internet service will end Feb.14, he said.

The company will focus instead on supporting the 2 million customers who have bought low-cost PCs from eMachines, Chadima added.

EMachines has also discontinued the free Internet service it had provided for up to 30,000 people who were on a waiting list for free computers, Chadima said.

The company will receive a "bounty," or remuneration, from the three Internet service providers it recommended to its customers, he said. Chadima declined to provide further details.

The e-mail also informed the free PC owners that they now owned the PCs outright and that all credit-card information about them, provided as part of the original deal, was being destroyed, Chadima said.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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