The new service, dubbed TotalAccess Gold, provides new toll-free priority technical support, an extra email box, and a quarterly CD-ROM that includes business and entertainment software as well as browser plug-ins, all for $29.90 per month. Most plain-vanilla ISP accounts cost $19.95 per month.
Competition is fierce in the Net access space, as companies scramble to grab as much of the burgeoning market as possible. Many analysts say the flat-rate pricing scheme will not make enough money for ISPs, which now are having to tap new revenue streams to stay afloat.
Last month, Sprint began offering Net "personal trainers"--a service for $9.95 per call where a support staff answers questions and trains customers to be more productive on the Net. The company plans to launch the service nationally on January 15. In October, it introduced customer service guarantees. If a customer gets a busy signal when using a local dial-up number, they are given a toll-free access number. If a connection still can't be made, the user gets free access for a week.
Late last year, a string of ISPs and online services--including UUNet, Microsoft Network, America Online, and AT&T WorldNet--announced they would offer 56-kbps dial-up access, hoping to attract customers with higher-speed connections. Others are trying to lure customers with higher-speed solutions such as access over copper wires, known as digital subscriber lines (DSL), as well as cable modems.
"We found that one size does not fit all. Many of our members wanted additional services and software to enhance their Internet experience," Bob Johnson, vice president of marketing and market development for EarthLink, said in a statement. "TotalAccess Gold features the extras our members said they needed to make the Internet even more convenient and enjoyable."
The TotalAccess Gold package includes guaranteed priority technical support, with a wait time of under five minutes, from a new toll-free number; an additional email account; and a waiver of the $9.95 set-up fee and $4.95 monthly fee. The quarterly CD-ROM includes full versions of software such as Adobe's PageMill 2.0, VitalSigns' Net Medic, and Symantec's Norton AntiVirus, plus games, plug-ins, and Internet utilities.