AOL for Free?
I read somewhere that AOL is going to stop charging for their Internet service and make AOL access free. Is that true, and if so, are there any gotchas I should now about?
AOL Wants to Be Free
Yes, it true... AOL access is now free. But I have clarify up front that "AOL access" does not mean "Internet access". If you already have an Internet connection (dialup, cable, DSL, or fiber) then you can now access all of the services that AOL offers for free. So if you've been paying for AOL and recently have switched to a broadband connection at home, you can stop paying for your AOL account.
Really. Just go to Keyword: Change Plan on AOL and click the Free button. No strings attached, no "customer retention specialists" to talk with. Nothing to install or download. Anyone with a connection to the Internet can get a free AOL account. If you cancelled your AOL account in the last few years in favor of broadband, you can even get your AOL screen name back.
"Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear"
With all due respect to Richard M. Nixon, let me reiterate this important point. Free AOL is only for people with some OTHER means of accessing the Internet. If you have AOL and a high-speed connection through some other provider, you can "go free" and pay nothing for AOL. But if you need the dial-up connection from AOL, you can still save a chunk of change. Switch your plan from the standard $25.90 a month to the $9.95 a month plan, and you can continue as usual.
What Does a Free AOL Account Offer?
First and foremost, an AOL account offers free web-based email on AOL.COM. I prefer web-based email over traditional email software, because I can access my email from anywhere in the world, as long as I have an Internet connection. With a typical email client such as Outlook or Thunderbird, your email is tied to one computer. I love being able to access my email from a friend's house, a hotel room, a cafe, or my car.
Here are some of the other services you can get with a free AOL account.
- Online Storage
- AIM Phoneline
- AIM Pro
- Security Tools
Xdrive is like a personal hard drive on the Internet, accessible from ANY computer. You get 5 GB of free online storage, and software for Windows that makes it easy to just copy files to and from your Xdrive. Stash music, photos, videos, or whatever you like on your Xdrive. And don't tell... you can use a different screen name and get another 5 Gb of storage. Xdrive is defunct, but here are some other places to look for Free Online Storage.
AOL's answer to YouTube is billed as the best all-around video portal. In addition to user-created videos, you can search through millions of pieces of video, buy and download full-length movies from most major studios, or watch re-runs of classic TV shows.
Listen to your favorite music online, including XM Satellite Radio stations. Over 200 streaming internet radio stations, from Classical to Country, Hip-Hop to Alternative, Pop to Rock.
AIM Phoneline gives you incoming calls with voicemail, integrated with your AIM buddylist. Get your "AIM digits" to give out as a no-hassle phone number to marketers, people you meet at social functions, etc. It's a free, local telephone number that comes with voicemail, delivered right to your email inbox. When you're online, it lets you screen and answer calls, using your PC microphone and speakers.
Secure instant messaging and tight integration with Outlook contact management. Also gives extra collaborative functions for business users
that the regular AIM doesn't provide. It's worth a look if you IM at work.
The AOL Safety and Security Center includes comprehensive anti-virus protection to protect computer and your e-mail. You also get spyware protection, as well as a firewall.
Granted, you can get many of these services elsewhere on the Web. But integration can be nice, and I applaud AOL for making the move to offer their services for free. It's especially good news for the many AOL users that have been paying a premium price to access AOL, on top of paying for high-speed Internet service. To get your free AOL account, go to http://screenname.aol.com then click the "Get a Free Username" link.
Got comments about AOL or the move to the Free model? Post your thoughts below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 20 Sep 2006
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- AOL for Free? (Posted: 20 Sep 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved