At that time T-Mobile only had one prepaid plan, Pay as You Go. It was strictly a voice and texting plan, there was no data available except for T-Zones, which was what T-Mobile called their mobile web homepage before they renamed it Web2Go. When you opened the browser the T-Zones page loaded. It let you check your prepaid balance and plan expiration date, top up your account with a PIN code and buy ringtones, wallpapers and games just like the My Account section of Web2Go does now.
But T-Zones had something else that was very special. If you clicked a link labeled "Web & Applications" you got to a page that let you go to CNN, ESPN, ABC News and a trivia site called Amusing Info. These four sites were absolutely free. They were old school, mostly text mobile web sites, but they let you keep up with the news and scores. The CNN site even had local weather. Plus there were a few sites including; Yahoo, the Weather Channel, 4Info Directory, Traffic.com and CBS Sports that were never part of T-Zones, but were available by entering the URL. The image shows the old T-Zones site and some of the free sites that were available in 2008.
Up until 2009 or so T-Mobile even used to advertise T-Zones' free access to news and information on prepaid phone packaging and point of sales brochures.
Then last year, free T-Zones started to slowly disappear. The links to CNN, ESPN and Amusing Info were removed from T-Zones, although you could still open them using their URLs. Eventually CNN and ESPN stopped working and later in 2011, when T-Zones was re-branded as Web2Go, the Web & Applications page was removed entirely and ABC News stopped working. But even after the re-branding many of the free sites still worked if you knew their URLs, including Amusing Info, Yahoo, BBC Sports and the Weather Channel.
This week T-Mobile changed something and all the free sites were gone except Yahoo (m.yahoo.com). At the rate things are going, I don't expect it to be around much longer.
I have a phone with a real data plan now and I haven't used the free T-Mobile sites in while. But I still feel a little pang of nostalgia for that awesome service that introduced me and millions of others to using the Web on their phones.