BOSTON (07/20/2000) - AT&T Corp.'s Worldnet Service on Thursday announced 'i495', its cheapest Internet access plan yet. This plan will offer 150 hours of monthly Internet access at a fee of US$4.95.
The package will include up to six e-mail addresses and 60M bytes of Web storage space for personal data. A toolbar will offer quick access to other services that include instant messaging, calendaring and access to online communities.
Technical support will be free for the first 30 days of signing up for the service. Subsequently, live technical support will cost $17 per request for help, said Lita Sands, vice president of marketing for AT&T's Worldnet service.
Subscribers will have access to free online support via real-time chat.
Users will have to put up with a floating advertising toolbar on their screens when connected to the service. Such advertising is similar to what users endure with some free access providers.
"The advertising toolbar will be about the half the size of the toolbar of a Web browser, or about 10 percent the size of the screen" Sands said, adding that the toolbar would contain buttons to access e-mail, instant messaging and other services.
Surfing habits will be tracked anonymously without being linked to any personally identifiable information, thereby alleviating user privacy concerns, Sands said. Consumer privacy advocates have approved AT&T's scheme to track surfing habits, she said.
With an advertising toolbar and Web-surf tracking, AT&T's i495 is similar to many free Internet-access services offered by providers like Netzero Inc. and Spinway Inc., among others. Why would someone pay for Internet access through AT&T's i495 plan, when similar access is available free from providers?
"Right now, a consumer can pay $20 for name-brand access to the Internet, or free (access to the Internet) through companies who have neither the brand-name nor track record," Sands said. "This model (i495) targets the midrange sector by offering brand-name reliability at a nominal price."
This Internet access service will be subsidized by the advertisers and access fees paid by subscribers, Sands said. AT&T Worldnet hopes i495 will attract users from America Online Inc.'s $10 per month Internet Access Plan.
"I495 will save them (the subscribers) $85 per year," she said.
AT&T Worldnet currently has 1.5 million subscribers.
AT&T, based in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, can be reached at +1-908-221-2000 or http://www.att.com/.