Telephone companies are on an Internet expansion binge again.
In the latest example, GTE (GTE) said today that it will begin offering Internet access in 120 new markets during the next four months. The company expects its subscriber base to jump to 400,000 from 100,000 by year's end.
The company added it will double or quadruple dial-up capacity throughout its network by July.
Like some other telephone companies, GTE also is bundling Internet access and long distance service. Its long distance customers will get unlimited Net access for $17.95 a month--ten percent less than the typical $19.95 rate.
"This expansion, along with our ability to combine Internet access with long distance, gives customers what they want," said Jeff Clark, acting vice president of GTE's Internet business unit, in a statement.
GTE faces stiff competition, though. Last month, America Online and Tel-Save, a little-known phone company, announced a phone and Net access bundling deal. Today, j3 Communications, another fledgling long distance carrier, said it would offer free Net access to customers who signed up for its long distance service, as previously reported by CNET.
Analysts say the actions show that telephone carriers are revving up their marketing efforts and starting to leverage the size of their networks. Telcos have long been criticized for being marketing laggards in competitive fields, despite their size and wealth.