Free Internet access, with a catch
Freenet is one of SA`s free Internet service providers - the only catch being that you`d need to buy insurance from the site to qualify. Basheera Khan takes a closer look at what this site has to offer.
Freenet, the recently launched online insurance broker, couples short-term insurance packages with the added incentive of free Internet access.
A joint initiative between E-Data and Infoline, Freenet offers a variety of insurance (including motor vehicle insurance, household, caravan and trailer cover) and investment packages.
All short-term polices are underwritten by Guardian National, and telephonic confirmation of sales is undertaken by CIB Insurance.
As the site`s name implies, it is a South African Internet service provider offering free Internet. In the same breath, however, the initiative claims that due to uncontrollable circumstances, it is unable to offer totally free Internet with no strings attached.
Instead, it offers online insurance and investment services coupled with unlimited Internet access and personalised e-mail identity.
In addition, users are offered links to other sources of relevant information, as well as a forum for user businesses and opinions.
How it works
Becoming a Freenet user is relatively simple. By choosing a username and password, you will be entitled to free e-mail. If you choose to become a Freenet member, on the other hand, you will be entitled to free Internet access. If you`ve already chosen an e-mail identity, your username and password will remain the same for this feature.
Of course, to gain free Internet access, you must purchase a savings package. Users` options include the Freenet Savings Plan, the Freenet-CIB Motor Insurance Package, the Freenet-CIB Household Insurance Package and the Freenet-CIB Trailer/Caravan Insurance Package.
To get a quote on any item you wish to have insured, there are two steps to follow - use the site`s Quotemaster to get an insurance quote, and if you`re happy with the results, click on "accept quote".
I tested the site`s promise of competitive premiums by getting a quote on my car. Having entered all the relevant details, I was rather disappointed to find that I couldn`t actually receive lower premiums than I already do. However, the premiums offered to me were only about R100 more than those I am currently paying.
If you are unsure as regards your estimate, you will be given the choice of either declining the quote outright or saving it for future reference.
Your insurance will then be finalised subject to a phone call by CIB, after which you will be given the choice of securing your unique username and password. Having confirmed your policy, you will be issued with a registration code, which you then use to access the free Internet service.
The site is rich in information, and provides visitors with some rather handy links and hints. It explains in detail the information you need before registering, which includes sub-headings of your personal information, beneficiaries and details required if paying by debit order or by credit card.
All you need to access FreeNet mail is an Internet connection and a standard Web browser. You do not need to download or install any additional software.
There is also the option to access your work/corporate e-mail, unless access to that mailbox is restricted by means of a firewall or similar security applications.
The Freenet Web site is easily navigated, up to a point. Users can choose between the collapsed and expanded versions of the navigation bar, which, when expanded, provides users with an incredibly thorough overview of the site`s offerings.
However, once you`ve completed the online quote application, you`re taken to a registration page where you can choose to sign up for the free e-mail service. Most frustratingly, there is no way to navigate back to the home page, or indeed to any other section of the site from this registration page.
The Freenet Web site offers a few extras, including its choice of the site of the week and the top 10 South African sites. There are links to a humour section sporting jokes of the day and week, and a "deep thoughts" section, featuring famous quotes.
In addition, there are several handy links to sections where visitors can learn more about the glossary of financial statements, unit trusts, endowments and using the Internet.
In line with the site`s strong focus on spreading information, visitors can examine in detail the pros and cons to the various investment options on offer, as well as survey the latest hard news reports from AfricaNews Online and the most recent weather updates provided by the SA Weather Bureau.