Long distance service company MCI Telecommunications today launched its own dial-up Net access service called Internet 2000, an offering that matches the WorldNet service announced by rival AT&T just three weeks ago.
MCI had announced plans, but no details, for a dial-up Internet service last month. But the AT&T WorldNet service stirred wider interest by offering five free hours of Net access per month for all AT&T customers who signed up.
MCI Internet 2000 will offer unlimited monthly Internet access to MCI long distance customers for $19.95. Customers who sign up before May 31 can also choose a plan that offers five free hours plus $2.50 for each additional hour. After May 31, customers will pay $9.95 for five hours plus $2.50 for each additional hour. The unlimited pricing plan will not be affected, according to MCI officials. Non-MCI customers can get three hours for $4.95 with each additional hour at $2.50 or unlimited access for $24.95.
This happens to almost replicate WorldNet pricing, but MCI officials said AT&T's service, which provided access to 212,000 Net users last week, had no impact on its announcement.
"This is no response to AT&T," said Vint Cerf, MCI senior vice president. "It's simply a response to traffic growth in our own business."
MCI will offer local Internet 2000 service in 250 cities by this summer and in 300 by the end of the year. Users in other locations will still be able to log on but will have to pay long distance charges to connect to the server.
Sprint also plans to launch an Internet access service this summer.
Like WorldNet customers, who can pay a surcharge to get unlimited access to America Online, MCI Internet 2000 users this spring can pay an additional fee to get access to the Microsoft Network's proprietary content, MCI said. The company did not specify the pricing for the MSN option.
To further cement its relationship with the software giant, MCI also announced that it would switch its default browser from Netscape Navigator to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Both browsers will still run with the MCI Internet 2000 service, but Explorer will come as part of the software package.
MCI may also follow AT&T in signing licensing deals online services America Online, CompuServe, and Prodigy.
"The Internet marketplace is growing in strange and uncertain places, so that's not to say we're not in talks with anyone else," said John Donoghue, senior vice president of marketing and advertising for MCI consumer markets.
To compete better for customers who need broadband network accces, MCI will triple the speed of its network from 45 mbps to 155 mbps by mid-April, MCI said. The company said it will also offer its customers high-speed Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) access by May.