Member Rara Avis
You and your Cable Sharon - yes, it's good... but you still have to deal with an ISP.
I've been through a good dozen over the past few years and haven't found a single one that's provided completely satisfactory service.
When I had a normal modem, I often had difficulties getting online (AOL was the biggest culprit here - no shock). I had issues with getting cut off, slow connections, bogged down lines, etc... Now that I've switched to DSL, I don't have those problems... instead, my email client goes down frequently (meaning every two months or so), the routers go down on average of about a day a month, and don't even get me started on billing issues!
I think though that these are probably increased with free services. Then, you're completely at their mercy. On top of that, you have to have not only your RAM, but often your Hard Drive filled with advertisement crap. I think NetZero (if I remember correctly) is the one where you have to click on a banner at least once every half hour or you get bumped offline. Then there's the junkmail!!! You think having a hotmail account is bad!
All in all, I think if you can afford and justify a paid account - go with it. In the US at least, you can get an account with a major company for around $20.00 a month, and can often find local providers who will give you unlimited access for $10.00 or so a month.