Innovative web marketer ZapMe! Corp. is experiencing some growing pains in meeting its commitment to provide schools with free computers and internet connections in return for the right to place some advertisements on computer screens. The company uses a satellite system instead of phone lines, which provides faster internet connections.

Scattered reports from around the country indicate that some machines the company has delivered do not work, the company’s technicians miss deadlines for linking the computers to the internet, and the company is slow in responding to problems that client schools are experiencing.

ZapMe! President and CEO Rick Inatome said the company will fulfill all its promises and attributed many of the problems to growing pains for the rapidly expanding company. Since its initial launch in 1998, ZapMe! has signed agreements with more than 6,000 schools to provide computers and internet service, and at times, it has had difficulties in lining up contractors to complete installations, Inatome said. One survey done by the company found that nearly half of respondent schools said ZapMe!’s first-year service was “somewhat” or “significantly” worse than anticipated, he admitted.

This is not the company’s first brush with controversy, as consumer advocates have criticized the company for collecting information on students and their families without the permission of the parents through questionnaires and data provided by the schools.

While problems are occurring, many schools and districts are pleased with the arrangement and credit ZapMe! with solving unexpected problems promptly, according to media specialists contacted by Education Week.