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AT&T WorldNet's Growing Pains Continue

AT&T WorldNet's above-average first quarter growth has left subscribers at the mercy of busy signals when attempting to connect to the service.

AT&T WorldNet Wednesday announced it increased its membership by 30 percent over the last 12 months, outperforming the industry average of 22 percent. The service added 100,000 new members in January bringing its membership to 1.5 million.

The ISP recently received a "Best Buy" award from PC World magazine with an overall "outstanding" rating, but still averages more than 100 complaints a day about busy signals since mid-January.

As the company's subscriber base continues to grow, the ISP still continues to hear complaints over busy signals from customers in markets across the country, primarily in large urban markets.

AT&T said it is adding capacity throughout its network to accommodate subscription growth. AT&T is adding capacity in 50 to 60 cities per month and expects to significantly expand its dial-up Internet network capacity this year. A majority of the network infrastructure upgrades will be completed by the end of the second quarter.

A spokesperson said the company already planned to upgrade the network's capacity over the course of 1999. But she confirmed that WorldNet had sharply stepped up its deployment of new lines after user complaints started to pour in.

"They've beefed up their deployment plans," said Janet Stone, an AT&T spokesperson. "There will be 100 cities that will be upgraded by the end of March." The company has scheduled some 100 cities for network upgrades, a significant increase from the original 40, Stone said.

On Feb. 5, AT&T WorldNet told its users it had added new access lines in ten of the hardest-hit cities, including Portland, Ore.; Everett, Wash. and Albuquerque, N.M.

Despite the continued complaints, the ISP service has been ranked as one of the top national ISPs in the country by Inverse Network Technology. The ISP rating service recently released their January call failure rates. WorldNet's 4.7 percent call failure rate is nearly 9 percent below the national average.

The Inverse metrics were performed during peak evening hours at 6 p.m. to midnight from Jan. 6th through Jan. 20th. Thirty national ISPs were tested on call failure rates in 42 major metropolitan markets.



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