PC World Online, September 1999


San Ramon, Calif.-based ZapMe Corp. is offering a deal few schools could refuse: a completely free computer lab furnished with 15 Pentium II PCs and monitors, a laser printer, high-speed satellite internet access, software, training, and maintenance. So what’s the catch? By accepting the free equipment, schools also agree to expose students to a continuous string of on-screen advertisements for a minimum of four hours a day.

So far, more than 700 schools have agreed to the arrangement, and ZapMe expects that number to reach 2000 by year’s end.

But the proliferation of ad content in schools has some people worried, including the Center for Commercial Free Public Education (CCFPE), which likens ZapMe’s offer to another free-for-ads outfit called Channel One. Channel One offers free TVs and VCRs to schools that agree to air ad-based programming.

ZapMe, however, says the comparison to Channel One is skewed because its computers are typically placed in libraries, where students also have open access to ad-based newspapers and magazines. Channel One equipment, ZapMe points out, feeds commercials directly into the classroom.

ZapMe has additionally agreed to run two public service announcements for every one commercial it displays on-screen.