RealTime IT News

WorldNet Limits "Unlimited" Access

Under a new pricing strategy announced today by AT&T WorldNet, users of the service's unlimited access pricing plan will now be restricted to 150 hours of access per month for $19.95.

Beginning May 1, 1998, AT&T WorldNet said it will charge customers $19.95 for the first 150 hours of access, with each additional hour thereafter costing 99 cents.

"We had to make choices in order to manage the increasing demands on our network, while continuing to provide the high level of service our customers expect from AT&T," said Dan Schulman, president of AT&T WorldNet Service, in a statement. "Our decision was to align cost with usage while maintaining $19.95 pricing for the majority of our customers. We believe this is the right thing to do."

The company claimed that 97% of all its customers will continue to pay the $19.95 monthly fee since the average usage is calculated at 25 hours per month. AT&T also guaranteed that pricing will remain fixed at this rate for the rest of the year.

AT&T said the 3% of customers who use a "disproportionate share of network resources" will see their monthly bills increase, and will be notified about the new pricing changes via e-mail and post card. These users will also be able to continuously track their monthly usage.

AT&T's pricing adjustment follows America Online's announcement in February that it would hike its monthly rates to $21.95 per month. AOL cited an average of 23 hours a month online per user compared to just 7 hours before unlimited use pricing was introduced as a major factor in its decision.

There is some good news for "light" WorldNet users, however. AT&T said it will reward its 10-hour plan customers with lower rates; users will pay the same $9.95 for 10 hours of monthly usage, but will be charged 99 cents an hour for each hour over 10, down from the current $2.50.

In an effort to further upgrade the WorldNet Service, AT&T also announced plans to increase modems, lines, and access numbers in selected cities where customer demand is heaviest.

WorldNet will also introduce new anti-spam features in which e-mail is flagged if it contains certain characteristics typical of spam, such as large lists of recipients. If the sender's name is on a list of known spam purveyors, the message can be stopped and the sender referred to a unit within AT&T that deals with unacceptable practices.