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Higher access fee hits some AOL users

America Online quietly raises the monthly subscription price for people wishing to access AOL through their own Internet service.

America Online has quietly raised the price for people wishing to access AOL through their own Internet service.

The online unit of AOL Time Warner raised the monthly subscription fee for its "Bring Your Own Access" (BYOA) plan by $5 to $14.95 last October. The price change occurred a few months after its general subscription fee jumped to $23.90 a month from $21.95.

"This may not be the be-all and end-all today, but the importance of the BYOA plan will increase over time," said Jordan Rohan, an equity analyst for SoundView Technology Group who first publicized the change. "I wouldn't be surprised if this change in strategy will contribute almost as much to AOL in a few years as the recent overhyped $1.95 price increase for their standard plan."

The BYOA plan allows people to access AOL's interactive services through their own dial-up or broadband connections, rather than through AOL itself. Basically, people who want AOL's content and services pay an additional fee on top of their existing monthly ISP charges.

About 1 million people subscribe to the BYOA plan, or less than 5 percent of AOL's total subscriber base.

AOL spokesman Jim Whitney said the company did not promote the changes to the general public but advertised the increase within its service.

"This is the first change in BYOA since the price plan was created five years ago, and since that time there have been significant investments and enhancements in the AOL service," he said.

Whitney added that the pricing change affects new subscribers to BYOA since October. Those who already have a BYOA membership continue to pay the former rate of $9.95 a month.