Free-Net offers marketing opportunities

Toronto Free-Net (tfn) was officially unveiled Nov. 3, nearly two years after a volunteer group announced it had begun working to establish a community-based computer network in the city.Like the 50-odd free-nets already in operation, or in the planning stages, in...

Toronto Free-Net (tfn) was officially unveiled Nov. 3, nearly two years after a volunteer group announced it had begun working to establish a community-based computer network in the city.

Like the 50-odd free-nets already in operation, or in the planning stages, in other cities across Canada and around the world, tfn will offer a wide spectrum of on-line information services to local residents – free of charge.

Although tfn is a not-for-profit, non-commercial on-line service, and, as such, does not permit companies to conduct financial transactions on the network, there are ways companies can use the service to get their names in front of consumers.

Mark Bernier, tfn’s publicity co-chair, says one approach companies can take is to become a tfn sponsor by donating money, equipment or expertise to the fledgling on-line service.

tfn will recognize its sponsors in a variety of ways, including displaying their names and a limited amount of company information at various points on the network.

For example, a corporate logo could appear briefly at the time users log on or log off the system.

The current list of corporate sponsors includes Rogers Cablesystems, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Bell Canada, Kinko’s Copies and Canada Remote Systems.

Bernier says companies might also be given the chance to buy ‘title sponsor’ status for specific information databases or electronic discussion groups.

For instance, an entertainment company might want to sponsor the entertainment/ leisure information database, or a travel company might be interested in sponsoring the travel and tourism database.

Other categories of community information to be found on tfn are: community events, government, health and safety, education, employment and library information.

In addition to sponsorship activities, companies can also provide information to tfn for inclusion in its information databases.

The opportunities here range from theatres placing their film schedules in the entertainment/ leisure information resource to a ski resort providing ski condition updates in the travel and tourism file.

As well, Bernier says the tfn board of directors is thinking of establishing a Yellow Pages-style directory of goods and services in which companies could place their name and phone number at no cost.

Local Toronto media will be able to take advantage of the service to expand their contacts with the community.

The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun and local free arts weekly eye magazine and many other publications have e-mail addresses and have indicated an interest in exploring links with tfn.

Free-nets are run autonomously by their community volunteers, but all free-nets are affiliates of the National Public Telecomputing Network, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

To connect to tfn, dial (416) 780-2010 on your computer modem. If you are on the Internet, you can telnet to:freenet.toronto.on.ca.