The first catch - and one that I read with horror - is that in order to get a free DSL modem (they aren't cheap) a subscriber must refer at least 10 other subscribers to Broadband Digital Group. Sure, they're going to come up with some sort of sanctimonious anti-spam policy, but I will bet this policy causes as much spam as a horror called AllAdvantage.com, which claims to have a strong anti-spam policy, but at the same time offers big incentives to members who refer "friends" to its service. (The hypocrisy behind these "wink,wink, we're not spamming, just asking people to tell friends about us" policies is truly vomit-inducing, but it is illegal to do what I'd like to do to the people who came up with this horror, so they're safe from me. For the moment.)
I'm tired of all the All-Advantage "friends" I suddenly have who I've never met before. I get spam from them every day. Now I'm sure I - along with many others - will suddenly have many Broadband Digital Group "friends" trying to rope us into this new scheme. I spotted nothing on the company's Web site about simply buying a DSL modem. I'm sure this is an oversight that will be rectified shortly. It would be horrible to think that this company would only open its service to spammers, no matter what kind of market-speak they use to cover up the fact that their referral program is nothing but an inducement to spam.
But even if Broadband Digital Group can figure out a way to justify its spam-creating marketing plan or drops it in favor of something nicer, you will still be forced to use software from Broadband Digital Group's business partner Winfire to access the service. This software requires "Windows 95, 98 (or higher), or Windows NT." No Mac, no Linux, no *nix. Without this software you won't see the ads, and Broadband Digital Group won't be able to gather info on what sites you visit, so you must have their chosen software to connect to their service.
You can see the company's point; their service is ad-supported, so if they can't give all kinds of info about you to advertisers, there's no way they can give you - free - a service that currently retails for $40 - $60 per month in most areas. There is no such thing as a free lunch. The ads pay the freight. If you are going to use the service, you must put up with the ads. And you can't even complain about being forced to use Windows as part of the deal. No one is forcing you to sign up for free broadband Internet service. By definition, wherever you will be able to get this service, you will also be able to sign up for DSL service through other providers that will charge you money - but won't require special software or send you an ad barrage.
Will this work? Is this going to be a viable business? It's going to be interesting to watch. There are obvious flaws in the company's business plan, but there are good things about it, too. Please don't take my word for it either way; I urge you to read the C|Net story and check the company's Web site before coming up with an opinion. If nothing else, assuming Broadband Digital Group can grow as rapidly as its owners and investors hope it can, the availability of "free" broadband service will force other high speed Internet access providers - like cable companies - to provide either more reliable service or lower prices (or both!) than they do now if they want to have any subscribers left in a few years.