Back in the heady days of the late 1990s, it seemed like everyone and their cousin was trying to break into the ISP business. NetZero once made a name for themselves thanks to their claims of free internet access, and now the company has struck a deal with Clearwire to start selling mobile broadband service under the NetZero name.
NetZero’s old gimmick was that you could poke around on the internet for as long as you wanted so long as you were okay with being bombarded by ads. The idea didn’t last terribly long — people managed to find ways to dodge the advertising — but the brand exists to this day as a purveyor of $9.99/month dial-up.
Sadly, I don’t think NetZero will be able to match that price for their mobile broadband offerings. There’s no word on pricing, but NetZero expects to have a complement of 4G USB modems and hotspots ready for next year.
It’s sort of puzzling to see Clearwire partner up with someone like NetZero, but all it takes is a quick look at what Clearwire has recently been through to understand why. To wit: Clearwire was lambasted by Sprint’s upper brass at a recent meeting, and they’re hurting for capital to build out an LTE network. Sure, Sprint made up for the gaffe by hinting at a long-term network sharing deal, but Clearwire is still in pretty dire straits.
Though the deal is sure to net Clearwire some much needed revenue, they’ll need to entice much bigger fish than NetZero if they want to survive. Still, at this point they may need to take whatever they can get: according to Bloomberg, Clearwire just posted a quarterly loss of $84.79 million.