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Free Internet Access for Hamburgers 141

Get Behind the Mule writes: "The senate of the German city-state of Hamburg, which has a population of about 1.7 million, has announced that all of its citizens will receive free Internet access, an e-mail address ("") and a WWW home page. Citizens will pay no direct provider costs, only telephone costs. The services are expected to be available as of the middle of this year. Those of you who don't sprechen das Deutsch will have to try your luck with Babelfish."
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Free Internet Access for Hamburgers

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Microsoft has tried doing something similar in Israel, together with Bezeq, the government-owned telephone monopoly. Every phone line owner in Israel was to be given free email (with Hebrew support) with the phone number as the user name.

    Fortunately, it didn't work out. The real motive behind such moves is easy to see: as ICQ and countrless others have shown the biggest asset an internet company could have is a user base. Why struggle in getting users to voluntarily join your service when you can strike a sweet deal with the local government?

  • So your saying the governments should pay for the backbone and leave it to the big corporations to make profit and monopolise the private market?

    That's pretty much what Ireland [] just did. Though I view it in a more positive light than you would seem to see it. The government buys the link in bulk and gets it for a discount price and then sells it on to private enterprise passing the discount down to them, which a huge corporation would not have done

    Everyone wins in this scenario methinks.


  • ...but think of AT&T when it was government run.

    The Bell system (in the USA) was never goverment run. There were competing services, one of them convinced the goverment that the competing services would never hook up and interoperate (despite the fact that the services were allready somewhat interconnected, and and more were heading that way). They were granted the right to be the only phone compony (a monopoly). I think this is a simplifacation because GTE might have been allowed to provide phone service as well as Bell Telephone.

    The monopoly was not part of the goverment. It was a publicly traded compony. If you don't beleve me get a pre-breakup stock listing and look at the NYSE stock symbol "T" (which is AT and T today). As a publically traded compony it had an obligation to make money for it's stockholders. Were it a part of the goverment it would have had a diffrent mission. As a monopoly it was subject to lots of extra regulation, so the goverment could do things like mandate "universal access", but the Bell System was very not part of goverment. I don't think they would have devloped the 5ESS, or maybe even mechinical pulse switchched calls (the goverment would have been happy to employ many citizens to make the call connections when you lifted the hook and said "Bob Jones in Fairfax please").

    The breakup (the Modifyed Final Agreement? Modifyed Final Judgement?) not only tore the Bell System apart, but allowed other componies to compete for phone service (long distance for sure, but local as well, but it just wasn't profitable if you had to string your own wires, so that mostly had to wait for the Telicom Reform Act). If it had been part of the goverment it would have been much harder to turn it into a comperitave compony. Just look at the Post Office!

  • There must be a gazillion martins in Germany, and a similar number of schmids, schmit, schmith and whatnot...
  • I don't know the exact situation in Germany, but here in France there are literally dozens of free ISPs, so giving access and hosting for free is no revolution.
    The most significant cost of internet access in Europe is still the phone charges.

    Unfortunately, even though one of the main suppliers of xDSL technology (Alcatel) is French, DSL service has only been available here since November, in the biggest cities first.

    So those of us in rural areas of Europe are gonna be stuck with slow and expensive V.90 until at least 2001...
  • You wrote:
    In my opinion, the government should only be responsible to pay the cost of a public good, such as highways, and national defense.
    If you had actually read the announcement you are commenting on, you would have noticed that this will be financed by private enterprises. A major partner are for example local banks, which can only marginally be considered as "anti-capitalistic".
  • Yeah, it should be, which should be much more unique. Or even better, allocate GUIDs to all citizens, that'll definitely fix it. Or list the last five ancestor's last names in order.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • In all European countries, ISPs make a living out of providing free internet access. They get revenue from telcos who charge on a per-minute basis. There is no subsidy involved. I suppose the city of Hamburg will not setup servers in the town hall, but will rather hire private ISPs to do the job. This is more like a PR operation.
    Nobody's locked in anything. If you want to access the internet from your TV cable or ADSL, nothing keeps anyone from providing you that service. You are freed from the phone charges, but have to pay an ISP, that's all.
  • <I>Imagine the debate about censorware. A child somewhere might see a breast, in his own home on the internet. The same debate, but this time the government would be able to control information flow into my home. The implications could be scary. The Internet is different than other public works because it contains information.</I>

    All they get is an e-mailbox and a number to dial. They still have to get a pc or equivalent equipment. Parents can do something about that part, if they want to.

    And the internet </I>isnt't</I> different from all other public service. Consider the phone system - most people have a phone. And there are sex lines anybody (including children) may dial. Still, I don't hear anybody screaming for phone censorship.

    Oh, and this is Germany. Why would they even bother worrying about pictures on the internet, considering all the porn they show on their TV channels? Live video feed with no delay at all...
  • There have already been free providers in Germany ( comes to mind). As I said, the phone fees only versus phone fees plus internet fees is a very small difference indeed, add to this the fact that the "free" provieder will always be busy, have slows speeds, etc. this is more a political statement than killing private entrepreneurship. besides, modems are dead, we need higher speeds, as you said.

    The problem there is that German Telecom is using it's monopoly to crush all possible competition in that market. Who can sell dsl etc to customers at Telecom rates, if you have to rent lines from Telecom for rates substantially higher than the rates Telecom charges for the complete DSL installation?

    It's not governments that's the danger to business, it's monopolies that need to be squished.

    And yes German Telecom also owns the television cable network.....
  • I don't know exactly what happens in the UK. Anyway as another example, there has been private free internet access schemes before and they didn't really work out. Why should this one? ;)

    Everywhere I was in the US, people always had free local calls. You mean they've been lying to me all these years? :(

    As for the tax money, I'd rather have my government spend the tax money on trying to increase internet accessibility, than nuclear weapons or such nonsense.

  • (1) Free internet access is nothing new, it exists in other countries (UK, etc)
    (2) We are not hard-core capitalism over here. We like to tread on a middle road, thank you very much.
    (3) I think the way they figure it is that by increased internet usage, they will have more skilled IT workers, more revenues by ecommerce etc. There was an initative started by our chancellor on CeBit to this effect.
    (4) Since local calls cost money in Germany, this internet access is not truely free
    (5) They'll raise the taxes anyway sooner or later, so they might as well do something "good" with the money.

  • They tried the same thing in a limited sense in several cities in the Netherlands, a few years back. These ISP's - called "digitale stad" (digital cities) - were usually sponsored by private companies, such as IBM and SUN as well as the local authorities. (See: Amsterdam [], Eindhoven [], Leiden [], Groningen [], etc [])

    Huge amounts subsidies (tax money) went into these so-called non-profit organizations blocking independant commercial initiatives. Back then, the monopolitized phone company earned lot's of money, as will the one in Hamburg. Meanwhile, Hamburgers will have no alternative, since THERE SHALL BE ONLY ONE.

    In the Netherlands phone bills are slighly lower due to privatization (and new legislation with respect to telecommunications). Only recently, when legislation allowed ISP's to get a percentage of the customer's phone bill, commercial ISPs (such as: Zon [], Wanadoo [] and Het Net []) started to provide their services for free. If it would not have been for the digital cities, these services would have been provided by a free market much earlier...


    -- The More You Drink, The W.C.
  • It's -1, Troll now... Pretty appropriate considering he's the king of the trolls.
  • Here in Norway, almost nobody pays for internet access except for the phone costs. This is thanks to private ISPs, though. Our government could never be bothered into something like this (although they are currently talking of going Linux and tossing MS)...
  • Hi all,

    Just last week Antwerp (a town in Belgium) announced to do the same thing. Sadly, telephone rates are rather high here too, so it isn't exactly a free lunch either.
  • It makes much more sense to have it based on address;

    Just a question. What is happening when you moved out and someone else is moving out?
  • This 'free' access will still be more expensive than regular internet access.
    Reason: The tariff for local calls at daytime is higher than the tariff for internet access. Around $2.40/h. My telephone costs are higher than the rent.
    Or: Bandwith to my local internet provider ist 10 times more expensive than from my internet provider to the rest of the world.
  • And the truly amazing thing is that the hamburgers will be actually *delivered* via the internet. All you will need is the newly developed iBurger (TM) device (USB only) and Microsoft Windows 95/98/NT. Windows 2000 versions will be available 2Q/2000. The developers are investigating releasing drivers for Linux under a new 'open-source-like' license called the McDPL.
  • That sucks. What's the use for the phone line? You can't host a server on the phone line.
    What I really would like is a cable connection with unlimited traffic. That would be nice.

  • Ok, it is a nice idea of Hamburg to do this. It just isnt anything thats supposed to be on Slashdot (IMHO). We have LOTS of providers that dont charge a monthly fee, give you lots of POP3-Boxes and WebSpace. You dont even need to register (thats Internet by Call). Problem is that it costs extraordinary amounts of money to actually call them. Local calls arent free here, theyre running at $.05 a minute during the day. (which is ugly, considering that every competitor of the FINE company offering this service (DTAG) have to use (and pay for) those lines, too. Research a little, next time. Now, if a city offered internet for FREE, then it would be news. Internet for the cost of a phone call is just too darn expensive.
  • pr0n.

    Are any websites going to be blocked? Its going to be provided by the government. Should the goverment subsidising any questionable/unethical material which goes against local by-laws?

  • Hey, how about free internet access for hamburglers!

    Download, browse, chat..
    ruble ruble ruble!!

  • now all a mass marketeer, looking to blanket all of Hamburg with promotionals, will only have to run a script to gather all of the first and last names of residents of Hamburg, put a "." between the names, and tack on the email ending, and viola! they have an email listing of the entire area.

    great idea, perfect idea. almost as good as the m$ inventing aliases and shortcuts.
  • Well Burger king has already done it so why can't hamburger???

    Note: this is funny not off topic. :)

  • Hi,

    although free Internet access is a nice gesture, nobody is doing anyone a favour here. With local(!) daytime telephone costs of 6pf/min (3/min) for most people most of the time (there are cheaper options, but they are either bundled with buying so many hundred units in advance and only being able to use them during daytime, or other such caveats) nobody is giving anything away.

    We don't have any flat rates (there were a couple attempts, but they weren't successful) or _really_ cheap phone rates. Although the Telekom does not have a monopoly any more, it still owns most of the cables - and that makes real competition difficult. So this will not change much - most of todays' ISPs over here charge you by phone bill nowadays anyway.

  • This may be read as a pedantic comment, or a humourous asside, you decide...

    Shouldn't "Those of you who don't sprechen das Deutsch" from the original post read 'sprechen sie Deutsch', it's been seven years since I did German, but doesn't das (or der or die for other genders) mean 'the'?!?

    Ok, maybe I should get my coat!

  • I would not WANT to have my physical address be part of my email-address. I don't want everybody to determine my normal address from my email-address and then show up on my door just like that. That's a huge privacy-thingy...
  • Most providers only charge 2-3 Pfg per minute in addition to phone fees, so this is only helping somewhat.

    Most, but not all! Have a look at Nikoma [] - they're offering Internet access at less than local call price (including the telephone calls), plus DM10/month.

    Alternatively, if you have your ISDN line from Arcor [] instead of from the Deutsche Telekom, you can get true flat-rate internet access. This is almost certainly available in Hamburg.

    DT are offering 3pfg/min any time of day (same cost as a local call at night) plus DM20/month. If you use the internet a lot (100 hours/month or more) then it works out cheaper to get the T-DSL thingy (the one with 100 "free" hours). Obviously there's a speed difference - I heard yesterday from someone in Stuttgart who gets up to 1.5Mbit (with compression), but there's a higher line rental too (extra DM40 or 50 or something). It's still lots faster than my ISDN!!

    -- Steve

  • Imagine the debate about censorware. A child somewhere might see a breast, in his own home on the internet. The same debate, but this time the government would be able to control information flow into my home. The implications could be scary. The Internet is different than other public works because it contains information. And in this country, we seem to be heading towards censorship. A free service with censorship is not a free service, and you bet people would try to censor gov't sponsored internet. If the above made no sense, I'll blame it on the fever I have right now :)
  • Are these (poor) people really called "hamburgers"? Must be pretty annoying for them *snicker*. They should come up with something better... "Hamburgians", probably ;-)
  • ...and secondly there is getting access to the hardware required to get online. If you are depending on the government to provide you with Net access then you probably can't afford the cost of a PC.

    Not necessarily so. The biggest obstacle to getting internet access at home for me has been convincing my father this email-and-stuff-thingie was really worth all the money. It was only when he could get limited access for f1,-- (~ $0.437621) a month when he decided to give it a try. Now, about one year later, I^Hwe've got full cableaccess, all because the initial threshhold was extremely low and my father decided to give it a try. While it may have it's shortcomings, this initiative could give a lot of people a chance of exploring the internet without commitment.
  • i use Dingo Blue.

    Unlimited net acces $25
    Local Calls 17.5c
    Mobile 30c a min, no rental/connection fees

    We still pay more though...
  • Actully, alot of countries still pay for local calls. Unfortunatly, here is Australia is one of them :(

    Doesn't look to be free any time soon here either, with the market recently opened up, all the companies are making too much money....

    --== Posted using Mozilla M14 (on a Win2k box unfortunatly). One out of two ain't bad ==--

  • This is so simple.
    If you think the email address is not unique enough, add a count number at the end.
    If you think this is a bit impersonal, just add the personal number at the end.

    Simple, as I said.

    - Steeltoe
  • The last president of Argentina did something like that a couple of weeks ago before he left. He sign a decree to give free e-mail to all the citizens of the country.

    It's not yet implemented, and I don't think they will implement it. I also can't find any link (so this post is pretty useless).


  • Though, you have to consider, that "only telephone costs" might be fairly high. So high, that the price of the dialup access is pretty irreleveant. You pay per minute, I don't know exactly how much in Germany, but here it's something like $2 an hour in peak, and this is the "cheaper" Internet tariff.
  • I agree with you that Europe is at a disadvantage (over North America) when it comes to telephone cost.

    It is because of this cost (and sharing revenue from it), that the UK allows the so called Free Internet providers.

    Now look at the Middle East and you find a worse picture, where we pay per minute, plus very high ISP monthly subscription.

    It ends up 5 times costing as much a fast broadband Cable connection in Canada (40$Cdn), but for a measly slow 31,000 bps connection with busy signals, disconnects, ...etc.

    Check this page [] for further analysis.

  • (1) Free internet access is nothing new, it exists in other countries (UK, etc)
    Well, sort of.... Presumably you are referring to X-stream's 0800 service? Or Callnet's loss leader?

    The UK has plenty of (over 200!) "free" ISPs, funded by the call charge. These are not really "free" at all, but "pay as you go" - you are paying them anything up to about £1.80 ($2.70) per hour for this "free" service.

    The problem is that we don't have flat-rate ISPs yet, except BT Internet (weekends and evenings only), or Claranet (also weekends and evenings only, priced at £50 [$75] per month).

  • Does the UK government pay for the internet access though (they might, but I'm not sure)? There is free internet access in the US too (through NetZero and the like) but its not paid by the government, so it still counts as competition in the private sector.

    No. In the case of "free" ISPs like Freeserve, it is paid for by the user, through their phone bill (Freeserve gets up to about £1.80 [$2.70] per hour from you this way for the "free" service). This is the model used by almost all the UK's "free" ISPs; a handful, such as, use a cross-subsidy from other services (they are also a telephone company, and subsidise the ISP from call charges).

    Finally, we are beginning to see flat-rate Net access; Claranet now provide flat-rate access at weekends and evenings for £50 ($75) per month. We do have one truly free ISP - X-stream - using 0800 numbers funded by an advertising bar, but getting connected to their one and only modem can take quite a while...

  • Weve had this in Iceland for about 3 months now, yes, you pay for phonecalls. Its a phone company that took the initiative. They of course get a percentage of the minute rate. Which makes the 20$ you pay per month fade in comparison.
  • ok, so let me get this straight. Just because occasionally (or possibly not so occasionally) this guy makes an ass out of himself and writes stupid stuff, everything he is going to say is going to be moderated down? That doesn't make any sense....
  • Why is this guys post rated 0? It seems he has logged in. It seems that he has something reasonably constructive to say. His next post is rated 0 as well. Did this guy do something terribly wrong and now he is always at 0 or something? There aren't any words next to his post to make it seem that he got moderated down.
  • We who live in the city of Göteborg in Sweden have already had a similar offer from our local municipality over a half year ago.

    (although I didnt need it, since I already have a free cable connection)

    Its good if the recognition of internet gets widespread attention.
  • I think everybody is failing to see the point here. (he said nodding his head omnisciently);
    The truth of the matter is that because of traditionally strong socialist-democratic political currents over here, telco's (and other large government companies) were made private only in the 1980's - now they are still struggling to pay their own bills and they are still very close to the minds of the governing people (they get 'rescued' when they're in trouble).
    Inet-related companies were never started up by the government or made public; they simply came in too late. Because of this situation there's usually only one telco per european country calling the shots (and next to that several very small ones that have to dance to the tune) while the product 'inet' keeps on inflating. Someone has to pay the bill, 'cos the customer wants it cheaper all the time. 'Not me', says the big telco; 'allright then, let it be me', says the ISP-startup; I'll give you all you want but you have to promise to look at all my banners!'.
    This will really only stop when local politicians make the big telco pay for their monopoly (or break them up ? - hey that's a good one!)
  • Come on! this has to be a step in the right direction... the more people with net access, the more the net will matter to more people. The Fax machine can finally die!, for example.
  • Being skeptical is probably good, but do you really think that privatization of everything is the right way to go?

    No...certainely not. Which is why I'm merely skeptical ;-) I think its good for slashdotters to make sure we do not judge with a double standard. On the one hand "Slashdoters" tend to stand for technological awareness, on the other hand they often rile against government involvement.

    We need to seriously ensure we do not allow for things that benefit us directly, but violate long term "guidelines" we apply liberally to slaughter our foes. Its proper to carefully scrutinize our actions awhen there is vested interest in our violating our standards. We should be more careful and liberal in controlling ourselves, in spite of the nobility of certain causes.

    I think the sig I see flying around is appropriate sometimes "Slashdot: open source closed minds". Sometimes I think the truth is that we are so open-minded that our brains leaked onto the floor! About the same effect :) Just wanting people to think w/o mob rushing in a popular direction.


    I am nothing.
  • I don't want to appear like I've got thing about this, but here [] is a good analysis by someone more intelligent than me of why these schemes are foolish. He talks about the trademark-DNS relationship in particular, and has covered the USPTO issue in his mailing list discussions.

    It does remind me of the early horseless carriages...

    (While you're there, check out the rest of the site, by the way. Ed Gerck is a smart fellow.)


  • This idea is as bogus as the USPTO trying to give an email to everyone's address in the US. It's gonna be great for grannies and the otherwise sessile, but the hip young mobile things that care about the WWW are gonna regret that URL and email address within a year or two....

    This is 'cyberspace', not real space, and those old folk don't seem to be able to see the difference.


  • Well, this is an interesting point. In the UK we have had free ISP's for quite some time, infact I'd say roughly 70% of ISP's now are free and the downside has alsways been the high telecom charges. However starting from last month, telecom companies over here have started giving unmetered net access including the ISP charge from £10 (about $16) per month. Although it isn't totally free, I don't think anyone can argue that at that price it's not a good deal. I wouldn't be surprised if this is mirrored around the world pretty soon with telecom companies basically offering IP down the wire. One other interesting point that stems from this however is that I think it's just a matter of time before Mergers & Monopolies Commisions are set up as telecom companies may be judged as having an unfair edge over traditional ISPs.
  • response to point
    1) Does the UK government pay for the internet access though (they might, but I'm not sure)? There is free internet access in the US too (through NetZero and the like) but its not payed by the government, so it still counts as competition in the private sector.
    2) Which is why I'm not suprised that government sponsered free internet is appearing first in Western Europe.
    3) I'm sure the plan for governnment payed internet access is well-intentioned. I'm doubting, however, that this will cause internet usage to increase faster than just private competition would have.
    4) Local calls cost money in the US, its just typically a small amount. The internet access is not truely free either, because it is being paid for in taxes. 5) Well, I guess it would good to feel that your taxes are being used to your benifit, even if just by a small amount. Thanks for your response. I enjoy hearing the point of view of others, and I don't mean to put you down by with my possibly odd beliefs. :)
  • In my area of the US, local phone calls are not free but just extremely inexpensive. A few years ago I remember hearing that all calls under five miles cost a flat rate of five cents, no matter how long you talked. This is almost certainly inaccurate information, but yes, local calls in the US cost money (just a small amount). People act like the local calls are free though, because their cost is often inconsequential. Nothing like in Europe, where it sounds like they make you pay out the ear.
    (note: this is not a europe hating sentiment, just an observation) :)
  • response to
    1) The Internet was funded by the government long before it was a viable medium for private industry. Once private industries were shown to be able to sustain the internet, the USA government pretty much backed out of the whole thing.
    2) Of course it wouldnt be a large increase. And maybe something else will be cut in some way to free funds for this. But there's no such thing as free lunch, and I doubt this is an exception.
    3) The government pays for the roads. But the guy who builds by house pays for the driveway. The driveway is private, for use only by me. The roads are public, and can be used by anyone who cares to. The analogy here is between the "last mile" of telecommunications and the driveway.
    4) I dont doubt the city of Hamburgs intentions, only its effectiveness.
    Free and unfettered access is all good. I think its more important, however, to be free to chose exactly who gives me free and unfettered access.
  • I did read the announcement. Unfortunately I read a translation as I'm not fluent in German.
    I based much of my comments off of my translation, which read

    "Thus it receives the exclusive right to structure under the name "", a commercial platform open for the economy in Hamburg and to marked out. Further the city will make contents available of the public administration of the society exclusively."

    This quote made me believe that the city has pretty much full control over the free-internet-access thing, and that the government is therefore competing against other local ISPs.
    It could be the case that the translation is lousy, or I just plain missed something in the text. In which case, I apologize for spreading misinformation.

  • I'm not saying that the government must pay for all public goods, such as the backbone. But if the backbone were to go underdeveloped because no private company had incentive to build it up, it should be the governments responsibility to fund it.
    I pretty much agree with your second statement though. Historically it seems that when governments try to compete in the private market, when private industries in that market are thriving, it generally a failure. I say, let be.
  • nothing like paying 25 australian cents for a four week call, either... :)
  • What really matters is that Slashdot got to run a headline that said Hamburgers were going to get free internet access, which sounds very amusing to most Americans. When Americans hear the word hamburger, they think of a ground-beef sandwich. So most of the Americans saw Free Internet Access for Ground Beef Sandwiches and got a good chuckle, whether they knew the German meaning of Hamburger or not.

    Haven't you figured it out yet? Slashdot is not mostly about news. It's about entertainment and left-wing propoganda.

  • a better solution, would probably be to create subdomains from the street names ...
    So that you could be :
    This offcourse would not create entirely unique id's, but a lot better...
  • 1) Does the UK government pay for the internet access though

    No. They do make sure that telephone companies have to make this possible but thats about it. The thing is that different countries have completely different ways of distributing the phone bill.

    2) Which is why I'm not suprised that government sponsered free internet is appearing first in Western Europe.

    And it probably won't happen in a big way in the US either. The US and Europe seem to have a big difference in opinion of how our governments should spend their money.

    3) I'm sure the plan for governnment payed internet access is well-intentioned. I'm doubting, however, that this will cause internet usage to increase faster than just private competition would have.

    I agree. This is probably worthwhile as an experiment though.

    4) ...... The internet access is not truely free either, because it is being paid for in taxes.

    It is free for a fairly subjective definition of free - i.e. if you decide to use it it doesn't cost you any more than if you decide not to (apart from the phone bill)

    5) Well, I guess it would good to feel that your taxes are being used to your benifit,

    See my comment on point 2. The US has much lower taxes than any country in Europe (I think). Europeans expect their governments to provide a lot more such as free public health, a welfare system, free legal support, and even farming subsidies. Most Europeans seem to be happy with taxes that would shock most Americans, as long as services are provided. This gives us a much broader definition of what the public good is.

    I'm not quite sure what the current state of Internet access is in Germany. In England, its available at a reasonable price, and an idea like this would probably not be welcomed. If they have to pay for the phone call and the ISP though, I would think that this would slow down the adoption of the internet quite substantially.

    Aren't there going to be quite a few Johannes Shmidt's or something.

    Are they going to have to use numbers?

    Who is number 1?
  • Three words:


    C'mon, folks, let's not forget the September that never ended...

    I don't want to see this happen everywhere because there are definitely some clueless f*cks out there that would never, ever pay (god forbid) for rudimentary access, but they'll take anything that's (perceived to be) free.

    Are more AOLers really what we want out there?

    Hell, no! I think it should be harder to get on the net. All this point-and-click GUI shit is lowering the collective IQ of the 'net populace.

    This may sound like I'm trolling, but I'm really not. We really need an intellectual barrier to entry. Give out the tools, but make 'em command-line and pass out a copy of an Internetworking-HOWTO.

    Yes, I guess I'm one of the "technological elite" or the so-called "digerati" (at least in my own mind). Yes, I guess I'm a hypocrite, too, because I work for an ISP (but I rarely take customer calls during my working hours of 11:30pm-7:30am).

    Moderate this however the hell you want to, as always.

  • No kidding; they'd go great with all the Free Beer I keep hearing about.
  • I remain skeptical concerning government involvement...even when I agree with the direction being pushed I think there are two issues here. The first is related to government involvement and here in Europe people are less worried about such things. EU governments tend to be more protective of their citizens rights.

    The second thing is why this is being done. Presumably it is to ensure that all citizens, including the disadvantaged, have access to the new information streams. The service public may not be as good as a private one but it will be available to a wider section of society.

    But providing internet accounts is only half the story. The other part is the cost of running such a connection which people have mentioned before and secondly there is getting access to the hardware required to get online. If you are depending on the government to provide you with Net access then you probably can't afford the cost of a PC.

    Some infrastructure or support is required to aid people in this area too. In this country from time to time it is mentioned that the government should provide large tax credits to individuals who by PCs. Now that would be nice but again it may not help those on the lower rungs of society who could use the Net to help themselves.

  • Who is number 1?

    Probably the first guy to send a email to Hamburg's city hall saying 'First Post!'
  • "There is no such thing as free internet"
    I am wondering we had free software, now we are getting free hardware (see opencores []) what is next? free infrastructure......
    A gpl'd fiber optic cable? If you think you can do better you just rip out the original and replace it, but you must let everybody use it.....

    Maybe I should patent this ;-))

    Grtz, Jeroen

  • So your saying the governments should pay for the backbone and leave it to the big corporations to make profit and monopolise the private market?
  • Here we pay a fixed rate for a local call, regardless of how much time we're on. Nothing like paying 12 cents for a 13 hour ISP call... poor Europeans...
  • ...Some more spin doctoring from Euro telcos. It is as 'free' as a ride on a bus that charges you per mile of journey.

    This thing has existed in most EU countries for a few years now and has been used by all the Telcos as an argument against introducing unmetered internet access. It is a pile of crap because in most EU countries local phone calls are around $0.03 per minute. Figure out how "free" that is for yourselves. Besides, offering you that "free service" is actually quite profitable for the free ISPs since they get paid by the the telecos when you use their dial in numbers (they get a share of your per minute charge). Go to CUT [] to see what kind of deal we really get with the European ISPs.

  • Oooh, what a marvelously crafted line: "Today the partners signed sucked." Wonder that it means though :)
  • With any luck, Frankfurt will follow suit and maybe next Sandwich, England?

    What if your name happens to be...
  • I also live in the Netherlands and I've heard that a couple of these "free" providers get paid by the minute from the telephone companies.

    So they are actually stimulated to provide you, the internet user, with a crappy connection that is slower than would be possible for them to provide. Slower access usually means, that you are longer online, thus they collect more money.

    As a side note, don't get me started on selling the information of customers by these companies... Just look at the law-suit that some of these companies filed against XS4ALL (A provider that DOES charge you for access) and lost, which used part of the EULA of these companies to show the general public that their information could be sold, by these companies.

    It's said before, and I'll say it again:
    "There is no such thing as free internet"
    The money spend must be generated from somewhere, be it from the telephone-companies, the money generated by selling information for "marketing" or by charging the general pulic for it (in the case of government funding).

    Just my $0.02


  • Welcome to the real world, theres no such thing as a free, reliable, secure, no ad, easy to use golden ISP in the world.

    Theres always a fee, (membership, or phone). or

    You can never get where you want (busy,404 etc.)or

    Your info ends up all over the net (spam) or

    You are totaly bombarded with ads (console) or

  • When I've read this headline, I thought: "Free hamburgers? I'd order a couple, but they'll be not fresh because of delivery time... I want such service in my neighborhood!".

    Then I thought: "Oh, maybe that's not about that. Maybe this is like online Coca-Cola and coffe machines - now you can go to McDonalds and track preparation of your Le BigMac from your laptop online!"
  • Where in the manglefish translation is the solution to this issue?
  • I'll take the second part first if I may.

    The second point is kinda what I meant - just have an e-mail address for a household, regardless of how many people are there. (It's not like you can't get free e-mail addresses easily. In fact, I recommend [] for a particularly interesting free-ish e-mail product.)

    As for the first point. I guess it's valid. In the 'Net, no one can hear you move...

    I assume that it will just be "solved" like Hotmail and Yahoo: Chris.Johnson@..., Chris.Johnson1@..., Chris.Johnson2@..., etc. Shame it can't be "nicer".

  • (5) They'll raise the taxes anyway sooner or later, so they might as well do something "good" with the money.

    Well, the problem I see is what it reduces the possibility of private entrepreurship. Government is the right tool for many problems, but one thing you cannot call it is fast. In a fast moving area, this could be a serious problem. When it is at its best, government is responsive to its clients. Entrepreneurs, however, are usually ahead of their clients. Who will push broadband, DSL, and wireless technologies?

    That said, the private record here in the States in some areas is also pretty dismal (ISDN never took off in its natural lifetime; and ISPs are generally really very bad). Perhaps this will enable the private sector to create lot of premium, second generation kinds of services. In that case it really would be like a highway project.

    I think this will be very interesting to watch.

  • 1) The internet has its origins and owes much of its early development to the funding of one organisation. The good old DoD a very goverment organisation. So its a case of been there done that got the swatch.

    2) Germany already has fairly high taxes so I wouldn't expect an increase, and if they are paying for the phone costs it could actually be a revenue creator.

    3) If the goverment pays for roads (and your okay with that) and indeed the road right up to your door, what is the difference between that and paying for the local connection to the public backbone.

    4) If Hamburg thinks that by netting all of its people it can gain economic advantage over other cities then good on them.

    Free and unfettered access to information is surely the greatest public good.
  • Are they going to have to use numbers?

    Who is number 1?

    You are ... number 6.
  • The city of Antwerp also announced that it will offer free unlimited Internet access to its citizens (more info at [], but it's only in Dutch. The e-mail address will be '.@antwerpen dot be' (which is not such a good choice, if you ask me), up to 5 mailboxes, 20 MB personal webspace (with support for Frontpage and Office 2000 Extensions).

    If I understand it correctly, this free access starts 29 February 2000, so I suppose it's up and running now.

    But this offer isn't very spectacular. There are a lot of free internet access providers in Belgium; the biggest is, and will be, the telephone cost.

  • Okay, does everyone else remember the story on January 24th about the US Post Office [] handing out e-mail adresses? Many of the same things that we all said then about making spamming easier certainly apply here.

    To the best of my knowledge the combination of my first name, middle initial and last name is unique. If I drop my middle initial, there's one other guy with the same name. There's only one other person who shares my middle name and last name. Do I want a way for spammers to attach a contact address to an indentifier that is unique and can also be used in the real world? Not a chance. I could certainly have used my name as my e-mail address. I didn't. For people who know me, through one online context or another, it is unique. But it doesn't cross over directly into the world of legal paperwork, financial records and medical data. I want some privacy.
  • The problem is not the ISP cost, as long as we in Europe have to pay ridiculously high telephone costs, the problem will be there.

  • As a longtime resident of Germany, I can tell you that everything that the town of Hamburg says they will provide can be obtained on the open market at a lower cost. For those of you who want to check it, look at [] and look up the rates for internet access. They list "Alle Anbieter" (all providers) and "Alle call-by-call Anbieter ohne Anmeldung" (All call by call providers without signup. No sign up, no monthly fee, essentially free.

    There are a number of providers that give "free" access for everyone as long as you pay the phone costs (which add up quick, the cheapest rate is about 3 pfg per minute (1 1/2 cents) or nearly $1 per hour).

    Add to it a free pop account from Yahoo and any number of free web page hosters and you're in business.

  • Remember that "Free Internet Access" in Germany means that you still have to pay for the phone line. Of course, even in Germany, there are Internet provider which offer access at rates well below those of ordinary city call, which means that this offer is not very interesting at all, it's just about marketing.
  • Here in Sweden several ISPs (check out Utfors []) offer dial-up (PSTN and ISDN) accounts (including email accounts and web space) for free. I call a toll free number, and get billed by the ISP for the online time, at the rate as a local-call (approx 60 cents/hour).

    There are no flat rates for dial-up access though, which has been bugging the more connected of us for some years now.

    In the latest year the "broadband" market has exploded, and most people living in apartments are getting their homes connected.

    On my street (20 houses * 30 apartments) every house has a switched 100 mbit cat6 ethernet, and switches are connected by fibre to the outside world. For this we pay a setup fee of $60 for which we get a 3C905 NIC and cabling, then $30 per month flat.

    But of course, free modem dial-up accounts are nice too.. :)
  • Some answers to your points. The UK government doesn't subsidise net access but the telecom industry is regulated in such a way that ISPs can take a share of the amount you are charged for the phone connection. So these ISPs don't charge you to use them. There are also some companies that have totally free services using either freephone numbers or by asking you to change your phone company to theirs.

  • In most polish cities you can connect to a server of the polish telecom company, TPSA. You don't get an e-mail or Web page -- which you can of course get for free in one of the many free services -- but you pay only for a local telephone connection. This service has been available for at least two years, and, though the connection speed and quality aren't top, very popular.



    • Babelfish sucks!
      Heute unterzeichneten die Partner ein sog.
      Which in Babelese renders as: Today the partners signed sucked.

    • Aside from that, however, there may be a few interesting implications of this. r?
      If this catches on, the words "global village" already far too cloying, will make you hurl. Everyone has their more or less established email addresses already..but if these are given by the state, they may become part of your official mandated identity. Imagine: all official gov't notifications being sent to your government granted (imposed) address. Sure, you can have another address...but for employment, education, taxes, whatever, you must use the official one? Whenever you fill out a form, it's the gov't address they want. Yeah, this may be slightly (or not so slightly) paranoid, but imagine the degree of control that this could grant. Today, the government can mandate an ISP to give out their records on a given address (I think). All complications disappear when the government IS the ISP. Forget Echelon. That has to spy on *other* systems. With this thing, they wouldn't even have to spy. Other, more creative people can insert their favorite conspiracy theory below. The point is, this can be a very cool and good thing...or, if too many bureaucrats get their sweaty little hands into it, a very, very scary thing.

      On the bright side, if the government does decide to become the national ISP, their systems would run on Windows 2045 or whatever the lowest bidding two-bit company is at the time, so traditional ISP's would still have to exist to provide actual working connections and service!

      Insert random philosophical quote here

  • I think it's great that hamburgers are getting free internet access. But what about the millions of hot dogs and openface sandwiches that are still paying inet fees plus high telecom bills? I think it's about time we started considering the needs of our other meat-and-bread friends.

    And does this mean free ISDN for Big Macs ?

  • I never thought I would see the day when Internet access would be wholy subsized by the governent. Perhaps I shouldn't be suprised that these things are occuring in Western Europe before the United States. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and this is no exception. Surely the cost of internet access is being paid by increased taxes. Only a reasonably socialist government would even try to get away with this. The entire notion is pretty anit-capitalistic... I'm sure this stifles competition. What happens when the technologies change, but you are locked into your city's slow (but free) internet access?
    Although free internet access is a neat idea, I doubt it will hold up in the real world. In my opinion, the government should only be responsible to pay the cost of a public good, such as highways, and national defense. Internet access, however, is unargueably a private good (the backbone bandwith is public, but this is not what the city of Hamburg is providing).
  • And it probably won't be fast either....
    In the Netherlands were I live there are a lot of these so called 'free' providers they actually get payed by the telephone companies for providing customers. Most of them deliver crap and sell your personal info for 'marketing purposes'

    Grtz, Jeroen
  • by Kris_J ( 10111 ) on Wednesday March 01, 2000 @11:56PM (#1232814) Homepage Journal
    As if "" is even remotely unique enough for an entire city. It needs to be more like to be for individuals. It makes much more sense to have it based on address;
  • by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @12:08AM (#1232815)
    Ok, all obvious jokes aside, it seems that "cold-spamming" (the equivalent of "cold-calling" numbers out of a phone book) will be pretty easy when your address is assigned according to a named rule like

    I mean, yeah, for all the chaos resulting in the domain/accountname grab, it does make it harder for spammers to plain guess your address. (Though I do get a lot of crap to admin@, webmaster@, postmaster@.mydomain etc.)

    Food for thought (Doh!),
  • by Bartmoss ( 16109 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @12:08AM (#1232816) Homepage Journal
    And I don't really thinks this is as cool as it sounds on first glance. In Germany, local calls are rather expensive, during the day it is 12 Pfg (6 cents) per 90 seconds, in the nights and on weekends, it's 12 Pfg for 4 Minutes. Since local calls are still mostly a monopoly of German Telecom, this will not change anytime soon. Most providers only charge 2-3 Pfg per minute in addition to phone fees, so this is only helping somewhat.

    Last but not least, with all "free" or cheap offers, this will probably be swamped by people and thus have problems for many years.

    I still think they should start selling cable modems instead.
  • by Mike Schiraldi ( 18296 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @01:41AM (#1232817) Homepage Journal
    For those of you too lazy to cut and paste, here's the Babelfish translation:

    Strategic partnership for ""

    After long and hard, but fair negotiations over the future of the Internet homepage " " an important switch position for the further development was carried out: The free one and Hanseatic city Hamburg a strategic partnership with enterprises wants to be received, which are embodied in the surrounding countryside in Hamburg and. Today the partners signed sucked. Memorandum OF Understanding (declaration/agreement), into which it to the termination of a contract in the next weeks commit themselves. Now can be begun with the transfer of " " on a new platform, which is to be locked in the spring 2000.

    The operator company, which wants to extend the past national supply by means of the commercial contents and services, the then LINE Schleswig-Holstein GmbH ( partners are Sparkassen-und giroverband Schleswig-Holstein, savings banks of the country Schleswig-Holstein, the Schleswig Schleswig-Holsteini Landesbank, the Hamburgi Landesbank and the Provinzialversicherung) becomes, the Hamburgi Landesbank, which Harburg belong to Hamburg savings bank and the district savings bank. In order to be able to along-decide in important questions, the free one and Hanseatic city Hamburg will likewise become Gesellschafterin.

    The Public private Partnership arranged now it is so created that all took part a use of it have. The financing first on 10 years created of the development of " " is ensured in its entirety by the enterprises. Hamburg brings the names of the already now successful portal " " into the operator company. Thus it receives the exclusive right to structure under the name " ", a commercial platform open for the economy in Hamburg and to marked out. Further the city will make contents available of the public administration of the society exclusively.

    A gate to the Internet for completely Hamburg

    With a global Internet acces for all citizens and citizens Hamburg sets country widely yardsticks:

    Each Hamburgerin and each Hamburg one will receive a free Internet acces; thus no Providerkosten, only the telephone charges develops must be paid.
    A free E-Mail address will be able to receive each Hamburgerin and each Hamburg one on (after the sample
    Each Hamburgerin and each Hamburg one receive free homepage from up to 10 pages on " ".
    These services will be Hamburg inside and Hamburgern starting from center to the 2000 at the disposal, since technically the transition to the new platform must be mastered before.

    The new " " is on data base base after sucked. Situations in life to be structured. Since in the future both national and private services are offered, can do the users of " " by input of glossary words (e.g. " marriage ", " removal ", " spare time ") the necessary services of the administration, which suitable commercial and other supplies in the package test. Also a regional containment is possible.

    The city saves cash and gets innovation

    With the transfer of " " to the operator company needs to pay the city no more Providerkosten. Their coworkers receive free training courses at an editorship system supplied likewise free of charge by the operator company.

    The city and the enterprises involved want to supply ever 2.5 millions DM for innovative software developments within the area interactive administration and the products afterwards together together marked out.

    Three columns

    Apart from the service supply a " citizen column " is to give the administration and the commercial supply structured as the third column. In it are to receive particulars, social groups, organizations and institutions, which cooperate or participate in the honorary structure of non-commercial on-line supplies for Hamburg or that Hamburg surrounding countrysides, the possibility of holding their supplies ready within " ". The operator company will support these supplies in the context of its possibilities financially and technically.

    In order to make the advancement of " " a common thing for completely Hamburg, an adviser from representatives and representatives is to be created by organizations and enterprises, which are interested in the development of the Internets in Hamburg. The adviser advises the operator company with the target, which service-orients supply under " ", citizen near, to develop effectively and pluralistisch.

    An open platform with advantages for all
    For the enterprises united in the operator consortium the president of the savings bank and giroverbandes explained Schleswig-Holstein, Olaf Cord Dielewicz:

    " we would like to make available also " " our customers an additional attractive service. This applies in particular to small and medium-size enterprises - we want to smooth the way for them in Internet. We understand ' ' however as open platform and are anxious to use the versatile and creative Potenziale that Hamburg Multimedia enterprises for the structure and the organization of ' '. "

    Senator of finance Dr. Ingrid Nuemann Seidewinkel underlined that with the today's direction decision a request was transferred the senate basic coalition partner - they had arranged the structure of a city information system in the coalition contract:

    " by all Hamburg inside and and free homepage to receive, going to Hamburg one free Internet acces, a free E-Mail address into Hamburg a crucial step to the democratization of the Internets. And if ' ' is used of as much as possible Hamburg citizens and citizens as well as of enterprises as regional communication and information medium, it becomes also the interesting Standtortfaktor. A successful " " can give important economic impulses and promote the image to our city world-wide. The partners, which we selected ourselves, guarantee for the fact that the common target with long breath is pursued. "

  • by Ratface ( 21117 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @12:17AM (#1232818) Homepage Journal
    I read that title wrong and was really looking forward to free hamburgers for everyone with Internet access.

  • by Get Behind the Mule ( 61986 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @01:00AM (#1232819)
    It looks like is a pre-existing portal (I think run by the city - the translation is really bad) and the city has partnered with a private company to actually run it. As part of the deal, the city is going to be putting a lot of its administative functions on the site. Also, it looks like they're trying to get local businesses to move into e-commerce through this thing.

    Right. The provider "S-Online Schleswig-Holstein GmbH", which has apparently been newly founded for this purpose (the portal had been run by the state up until now, I think), will be owned and financed by a group of banks and an insurance company. The city will also be part owner in order to be able to influence its decision-making, but is not involved in the financing, except that the city and the private partners will put up a total of DM 2.5 million to pay for development of software to be used in city administration. City employees will also receive free training from the provider for the use of its authoring system.

    In addition to providing government services, the platform will also provide commercial content and services. There's something in there about a search engine for the portal for items like "weddings", "free time", etc.

    Some of the other posters are quite right that this is going create a difficult situation for private providers, and I wouldn't be surprised if they try to fight it. The two biggest players for private internet access in Germany are AOL and T-Online, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, and there is a host of smaller providers (I think the smaller ones are better, personally). At least AOL has already raised objections to Chancellor Schröder's initiative, raised in his speech opening the CeBit, to have internet access in all of the German schools within the next couple of years. They'll probably like this idea even less.

    The service may very well be swamped and hence too slow and unreliable, which would give the private providers an opening for competition on the basis of better quality. After all, since the Deutsche Telekom's monopoly was broken a few years ago, most German customers have not gone to the very cheapest telecom providers -- they've been willing to pay a little more for better service. Nevertheless, it's not easy to get someone to pay for a service that they can get elsewhere for nothing.
  • by Markee ( 72201 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @12:42AM (#1232820)
    I believe it when I see it. The article says that Hamburg politicians and a consortium of local banks have signed a document of understanding that says that a treaty is going to be signed -- so nothing is really finished yet.
    It seems to me that no-one really knows what their decision really means. The article says that every Hamburg citizen will be entitled to get a free homepage of up to 10 pages -- given that the number of pages a website has is completely irrelevant compared to its size in bytes, I'm pretty sure none of the participants actually knew what everyone was talking about.
    I think it's a great idea, but I don't think we will see this in the near future.
    • The participants don't seem to know that the suggested email name scheme is ridiculous for a large town like hamburg;
    • they feel that offering a free online service is a good offering in Germany (which, as posters above have pointed out, isn't true since it's the f#@$ing Telekom minute fees that make surfing hideously expensive (I pay about DM 150 or 70 Dollars per month for surfing),
    • and they don't seem to know what they are saying: Getting 1,8 million potential new customers within days is something that would even challenge the largest ISPs in Germany; the small ISP they seem to be using will be washed away by the wave.

    Nevertheless, it's a great idea, and I hope they will get some help from someone who can handle this and finally get it done.

  • by lostboy ( 79669 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @12:36AM (#1232821)
    After whacking the good fish [] upside the head, I think I've made some more sense of this.
    It looks like [] is a pre-existing portal (I think run by the city - the translation is really bad) and the city has partnered with a private company to actually run it. As part of the deal, the city is going to be putting a lot of its administative functions on the site. Also, it looks like they're trying to get local businesses to move into e-commerce through this thing.
    Some more poking around got me to this [], which indicates that an EU commission called Telecities [] is responsible in part for this. Created in 1993, its goal has been to help Europe become part of the "Information Society" - and it boasts a pretty impressive set of member cities []. Interestingly, its sister projects are Car Free Cities [] and something called POLIS [], which looks to be creating new regional transportion systems.

  • by nullity ( 115966 ) on Thursday March 02, 2000 @12:17AM (#1232822) Homepage
    Parts of the US already offer this through the library system...particularly Kitsap County in Washington. This was originally instituted as text-based dialup access over 5-6 years ago...pretty progressive. The idea was that the internet was becoming a major information source, and the library is responsible for providing people with information. Pretty sharp reasoning if you ask me!

    That said, this represents still another progression. While a library is often (not always) a government controlled agency, having a city take such a progressive stance is interesting. The question it the city's place?

    Now my first reaction to this was pleasure. "Gee...that's really cool. That a city government would be so encouraging of technology." But further reflection begs the question of necessity. For instance, do you think that the internet access will be of the same quality as a commercial provider? Maybe initially...but think of AT&T when it was government run.

    While this doesn't sound like a monopoly, per se, it will be much harder for a small ISP to stay in business. Maybe even a large ISP (though big business has a way of bullying government and vice versa). The net effect to the citizens of Hamburg may be sub-par service.

    A simple thought experiment makes the danger very clear. This is very similar to the "what if everyone littered" argument...but bear with me. What would happen if every city in every "wealthy" nation began providing internet access to its citizens? The short term effects would be very positive! This sort of connectivity is bound to change life as much as the car or the telephone. The problem comes in the long term. While cities would probably try to continue providing high-quality service, demand for high-tech faster connections would drop dramatically. Small companies with innovative ideas that would have survived in a competitive market will probably go out of business.

    Status quo will become the normitive in communication (as opposed to today's computer market where the status quo is actually change!).

    I expect to hear a lot of cheering about this on slashdot...and this may be good in the short run (or maybe in the long run if the government quickly pawns this off competitive companies once life is saturated with internet use...a good thing IMHO). But its worth evaluating the potential dangers and not embracing such action based on immediate emotional reactions.

    I remain skeptical concerning government involvement...even when I agree with the direction being pushed

    History has shown that the most positive trends tend to be towards privatization of technology! Remember that the citizens of Hamburg will be paying for the long run. This isn't just free connections. And it seems likely that the city "ISP" won't run at as low cost/per connection as a struggling private company. Just a guess ;)


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