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AT&T Adds POPs, Plays Down Price Change

AT&T announced plans today to expand its WorldNet network during the coming year, and said recent price changes affecting the Internet service have not resulted in a loss of customers.

The company said it plans to add 218 new points of presence (POPs) over the next year, an expansion that represents a 62% increase in its national POP count, up from 357 to 575. As a result, AT&T said 76% of the U.S. population should be able to dial into its Internet service via a local call.

In addition, AT&T reported that the number of POPs that had been filled to capacity dipped 52% since March.

AT&T will join with Dayton, NJ-based telecommunications provider Teleport Communications Group (TCG) to deploy the new POPs. TCG, a provider of voice, data, long distance, video, and Internet services in 82 U.S. markets, announced plans in January to merge with AT&T.

Forty POPs are scheduled to be added in the next six months, with the remainder slated for operation by mid-1999.

The WorldNet expansion follows AT&T's introduction of a new pricing strategy in March under which users of the service's unlimited access plan are restricted to 150 hours of access per month for $19.95.

The Standard Pricing Plan, which went into effect in May, returned "no significant change in churn," according AT&T. The company said only 3% of its WorldNet users rack up more than 150 hours of online time per month. Users over that limit have to pay $.99 cents per hour in excess usage charges.

AT&T added that its service has not suffered as a result of the pricing plan, and claimed first-time connection rates of 96.8%, an 8.4% increase, as measured by Inverse Network Technology during the March through May period.

"We're pleased with the increase in the already high reliability of AT&T WorldNet Service, but we're not satisfied," said Dan Schulman, president of AT&T WorldNet Service. "Beginning in August, our new target will be an A or A+ rating from Inverse Technology on at least 80 percent of our POPs during the peak hour period."