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News and advice from our small-business Web siteThe Price of Freedom

For a home business or sole proprietor, tolerating a few obnoxious ads and nosy surveys is a fair swap for unlimited free Net access. At least that's the contention of five free Internet service providers recently sampled by frontier: NetZero, AltaVista Free Access, Excite@Home FreeWorld, Juno, and WorldSpy. The reality is something else. Although all of them promise ease of use, the sites are generally difficult to set up and keep running. In addition, customer service is surly or, at times, nonexistent.

To make things worse, all the sites but one--WorldSpy--bombard you with distracting ads, which often take up as much as 25% of screen real estate. That's the main reason why WorldSpy came out as frontier's favorite free ISP, though even it had less-than-stellar customer service. Our advice: Use a free service if it's not essential to your business. Otherwise, ante up a few extra dollars each month for the added reliability and sanity of an ad-free PC.Aiding the Disabled

The Labor Dept. says there are as many as 11 million unemployed disabled adults of working age in the U.S. Taxpayers and private philanthropies spend several hundred billion dollars a year to support them. Yet few government programs promote self-employment for the disabled.

That's what makes the Labor Dept.'s new Small Business Self-Employment Service notable. Its goals are to make federal small-business programs more accessible to the disabled and to encourage entrepreneurship training as part of existing rehabilitation and employment programs. For more information, contact Kim Cordingly at 800 526-7234.For the full stories, click Online Extras at frontier.businessweek.comEdited by Dennis Berman

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