Although the two companies have been working together on high-speed Net offerings for a while, this is the first time they've explicitly linked their traditional telephone and dial-up Internet services.
Company executives said this was the first step in what will be a growing push to bundle the fast-growing Internet services with Sprint's other packages.
Today's package offers consumers a $30-per-month price tag on a bundle that includes unlimited Net access and 1,000 minutes of evening long-distance calls.
"We believe that bundling in the consumer space is the future of the industry," said Bernie Amyot, Sprint's vice president of marketing.
For Sprint, as well as for other long-distance giants that are moving into other parts of the telecommunications world, bundling may also be a lifeline. The giants are seeing the profit margins on their traditional long-distance businesses shrink dramatically as competition peaks. Analysts say the companies need to persuade consumers to sign up for other, more profitable parts of their offerings such as Internet service.
The long-distance companies, as an industry, have not been particularly successful in linking their Internet and telephone services in the past, however. WorldCom has gone back and forth between having a consumer ISP service and is barely on the radar screen as a household Net brand. AT&T's WorldNet has been successful by the standards of most dial-up ISPs but has been unable to break out of a broad second tier of providers that trails far behind industry leader America Online.