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Small telco works Net market

Working Assets, a fledgling telephone company that donates a part of its profits to causes such as saving the rainforest, jumps into the crowded Net access market.

Working Assets, a fledgling telephone company that donates a part of its profits to such causes as protecting rainforests, the right to reproductive freedom, and consumer activism, today jumped into the crowded Net access market.

The company announced that it would begin offering Net access through more than 300 locations using the Netscape Navigator browser. It will charge $19.95 a month for unlimited access.

"We've taken our successful donation-linked business concept into cyberspace," said Laura Scher, chief executive of Working Assets.

The privately held San Francisco-based Working Assets has already developed a following for providing long distance phone service.

Every time a customer uses any of its services, Working Assets contributes a percentage of its revenue to more than 36 nonprofit groups, including Planned Parenthood, Amnesty International, and Rainforest Action Network. Last year alone, the company donated more than $2.5 million to these groups.

Smaller telephone companies are not the only ones entering the fray. Regional carrier Pacific Bell said it would begin offering Net access in the Reno, Nevada, area for $19.95 a month for unlimited Net access. Reno has one of the largest toll-free calling areas in the nation. The region includes Reno, Carson City, Sparks, Incline Village, and other Northern Nevada communities. The service will be called Nevada Bell Internet.

And later this month Richard Branson's Virgin Group empire and U.S. cable firm International CableTel plan to launch a Net access service called Virgin Net in the United Kingdom.