NEW YORK--Following a similar move by Netcom, another Internet service provider is planning to move beyond the $19.95 flat monthly charge that has become the industry standard.
EarthLink Network (ELNK) is testing an unlimited access service for $29.95 a month with a limited number of customers, according to sources. For that price, the company will offer users a "gold" level of customer support and a quarterly CD-ROM containing the latest Net software, sources said.
The move is part of a growing trend among ISPs to supplement or move away entirely from the standard $19.95 all-you-can-eat Net access plan with a more expensive, premium level of service. Many in the industry have wondered aloud how ISPs would be able to maintain that rate and still make money.
Last March, Netcom announced that it would offer customers unlimited Net access at $24.95 per month. This pricing plan includes a "fair use" policy that, at the lower levels, gives higher priority during peak hours to users who aren't constantly logged on. AT&T, Sprint, and America Online have all said they are considering tiered pricing plans.
According to sources, EarthLink's $29.95 service will not give users higher priority when they log on to the company's national network. But customers will get a higher priority when they call for technical support.
EarthLink will not abandon its $19.95 monthly access fee, sources said, and the company has not established a date when it will make its new pricing plan available to the public. The company declined to comment.
The Pasadena, California, ISP claims to have pioneered the $19.95 unlimited access plan. The company has 320,000 subscribers.