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[email protected] Jan. 6 kicked off free Internet access called Freeworld Powered by Excite. The new service is backed by technology from CMGI-majority owned 1stUp.com Corp., a company that creates customized ad-supported Internet access for companies including AltaVista and Gay.com.

The service (freeworld.excite.com) will offer dial-up access for users with modem speeds up to 56K. [email protected] will continue to charge for its high-speed cable Internet service. Last month, free e-mail provider Juno Online Services announced ad-supported access as did Yahoo! through a co-branded site with Kmart Corp.'s site BlueLight.com.

Meanwhile, start-up Broadband Digital Group last week said it would offer free high-speed DSL Web service in April. Its FreeDSL (www.freedsl.com) comes with strings attached, notably that users who want a free modem must convince 10 other people to register for the service. The company would generate revenue by selling targeted rich-media ads.

Jupiter Communications predicts that 13% of all online users will access the Web through a free service by 2003.

Chat. . .

Press release headline: "Betmaker.com chooses LivePerson to offer personalized online customer service." What a concept -- you now can talk to a bookie. . . . Quokka Sports, a San Francisco-based sports content Web venture (www.quokka.com), named McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Seattle, to handle its $6 million to $10 million account. McCann edged out finalists Blazing Paradigm and Citron Haligman Bedecarre, both San Francisco. Quokka formerly worked with Lee Hunt & Associates, New York. . . . Building on its "AOL anywhere" strategy, America Online is providing its e-mail software to users of Compaq Computer Corp.'s Aero, Casio Computer Co.'s Cassiopeia and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Jornada handheld PCs.

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