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AT&T Net-phones home

AT&T tomorrow will announce a new technology that could make it easier for Net surfers to call their friends on the Internet.

AT&T tomorrow will announce a new technology that will help Net surfers make phone calls from Web sites, CNET has learned.

AT&T will announce a technology for Web sites that allows Net surfers to easily make phone calls directly from a site. The technology makes calls over the traditional telephone network, not over the Internet.

The AT&T technology could allow Web sites to embed icons on their pages that trigger these phone calls when clicked, according to sources. For example, an online vendor of computer equipment could connect its Web site to a support center so that surfers could call a technician while skimming a catalog of its products. If the customer is on a dial-up connection, the icon would initiate the call over a separate phone line.

The announcement is scheduled to be made by David Nagel, president of AT&T Labs, and Kathleen Earley, vice president of AT&T EasyCommerce Services. Earley's division of AT&T offers services to businesses for hosting Web sites.

While the AT&T technology represents one combination of the Internet and voice communications, it's not the only one. Internet telephones let users make long distance phone calls--despite their CB-radio-transmission sound--through ordinary PCs directly over the Internet, all for the cost of dialing into a local ISP.

Telco giants, such as AT&T and MCI Telecommunications, have remained neutral on the Net phone issue, but smaller long-distance carriers fear that Internet telephones potentially threaten long distance revenue. A group of these carriers called the America's Carriers Telecommunication Association, earlier this year asked the Federal Communications Commission to ban Net phones as unfair competition.

As the FCC reviews that petition, a steady stream of Internet telephone products continue to appear. Today, Vienna Systems announced Vienna.way, software that will make it easier for Net telephone users to set up conference calls and to connect to telephones that aren't connected to the Net.

Related stories:
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Web sites reach out and touch someone
FCC hints at support for Net phones
US West tests phone with Net access
Opponents seek truce over Net phones
Telcos running scared of Net phones