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Sprint offers Net "personal trainers"

In the telco's new program, a telephone support staff answers questions and trains customers to be more productive on the Net for $9.95 per call.

Sprint today launched a program called "Personal Internet Trainers," offering a telephone support staff that will answer questions and train its customers to be more productive on the Net for a fee of $9.95 per call.

The company said it will still offer free technical support to its Sprint Internet Passport subscribers. The new program is aimed at users who want to get specific information on such tasks as how to buy stocks online or how to listen to a local basketball game via the Net, a company spokesman said.

"Sprint Internet Personal Trainers are highly trained, highly skilled experts providing a value that Internet users cannot find anywhere else--a single, reliable source for fast answers to sometimes complicated questions," said Jim Dodd, vice president for Sprint Internet Services, in a statement.

The company says the service is part of its strategy to offer users more than a "plain vanilla" ISP connection. In October, Sprint announced new customer service guarantees. If its Net customers receive a busy signal when using a local dial-up number, they will be able to use a toll-free access number. If a connection still can't be made, users will receive free access for a week. That is worth $5 and up to $19.95 per week, the company said.

At that time, Sprint indicated it would launch the "Personal Internet Trainer" feature by year's end.

Competition is cutthroat in the ISP market, not only among the telecommunication carriers, but also among established ISPs and online services.