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MCI WorldCom offers consumer Net service

The merged company unveils a new, feature-packed consumer Internet service that will use a CompuServe portal.

Just seven months ago, MCI Communications and WorldCom won regulatory approval for their merger by selling MCI's Internet business. Today the merged company, MCI WorldCom, introduced a new consumer Internet service.

MCI WorldCom Internet will use the company's UUNet Internet network to provide local consumer access. The service will use a portal operated by CompuServe, a division of America Online.

The CompuServe "start page" will feature top news and information, direct links to stock quotes, and customizable features. Both Internet and long distance MCI WorldCom customers will receive just one bill for their communications services.

"MCI had to sell of all its Internet assets including its network," said an MCI WorldCom spokeswoman. "This new offering is using UUNet's network, which is part of WorldCom's network."

She added that it was the combined Internet assets of the two companies that were the source of concern for regulators, and that the merged company does not expect any regulatory hurdles with the new service.

MCI sold its network to Britain's Cable & Wireless for $1.75 billion last September.

"This deal with CompuServe is not exclusive," the spokeswoman said. "MCI's previous agreement with Yahoo was negated when we sold off the network."

As previously reported by CNET News.com, the Internet service is available to MCI WorldCom long distance subscribers for $16.95 per month for the first 150 hours of local access. The service provides additional benefits to those subscribers enrolled with any one of MCI WorldCom's eight major U.S. airline partner programs.

"As a strategic partner, MCI WorldCom also gives us increased exposure to telecommunications and business customers, as well as the opportunity to generate significant advertising and commerce revenue, and we look forward to building on this relationship in the future," said CompuServe chief operating officer Audrey Weil.

Citing several recent studies, MCI WorldCom said that more than a third of U.S. adults are online today and more than 17 million new users are expected to get online in 1999.

"The Internet is becoming a daily tool and source of entertainment for consumers throughout the country," said Vint Cerf, senior vice president for MCI WorldCom Internet architecture and technology, and one of the Internet's founding pioneers. "This market will continue to see tremendous growth and change as consumers become even more savvy about online service and what the Internet has to offer."