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ISP looks to lure AOL members

US Internet launches a special program in an effort to get customers who want to switch from America Online, which has just raised its rates.

Another Internet service provider today weighed in with a plan to target customers of America Online, who now face a 10 percent increase in their rates to receive unlimited Net access.

US Internet, a Minnesota-based ISP that says it has "tens of thousands" of customers, launched the "888-Leave-AOL" program for customers interested in switching from AOL. The promotion includes waiving the $24.95 setup fee and guaranteed price protection for the next two years. US Internet charges $19.95 per month for unlimited Net access--$2 less than AOL plans to charge.

As the nation's largest access provider with some 11 million members, AOL often is a target for marketing campaigns by the competition. Despite the slings and arrows, AOL continues to grow and its stock price is trading at historic highs.

US Internet also has registered the Web address "www.leave-aol.com" to explain its promotion. The company is on a national expansion binge and is confident it can lure disgruntled AOL customers, said Joe Caldwell, vice president of sales and marketing. Privately held US Internet provides service in more than 250 cites.

On February 9, AOL announced plans to raise its monthly charge for unlimited Net access by 10 percent to $21.95 per month from $19.95 per month, effective with the April billing cycle. Most ISPs and online services, including Prodigy, said they have no immediate plans to match AOL's rate hike.

EarthLink Network has launched a campaign called "Get out of AOL for free." It includes free email notification for users who switch to EarthLink as well as a waived setup fee.