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WorldCom eyes consumers with AOL pact

In an attempt to gain and retain subscribers, the telecommunications company extends its deal with America Online, offering free hours and other savings to consumers.

WorldCom and America Online announced an agreement for the telecommunications company to market the online giant's subscriptions to its local and long-distance subscribers.

WorldCom will offer one hour of free calls each month when subscribers sign up for AOL. Consumers who sign up for the program also will receive 500 free hours on AOL and $200 in savings at the AOL Store.

For WorldCom, adding AOL and other perks to its phone service package is an attempt to retain its subscribers in a notoriously hypercompetitive market. Its main competitor, AT&T, sells long-distance services and has extended its network into cable and wireless communications services.

WorldCom is trying to acquire Sprint to become a leading phone and wireless services provider. Federal regulators may block the proposed $143 billion merger on concerns about possible U.S. antitrust law violations, however.

Today's deal marks another extension of AOL's relationship with WorldCom. The companies inked a deal last month in which WorldCom's UUNet would expand its management and coverage of AOL's dial-up services.