RealTime IT News

AT&T WorldNet Drops Budget Service

In a nod to the futility of online advertising-subsidized Internet access, AT&T WorldNet officials are telling customers to switch their $4.95 a month service to a pricier service by Jan. 4, 2002, or have it switched for them.

Since October, when WorldNet i495 customers fist heard about the switch, they've been able to switch to a special $10.95-a-month service, limited to 50 hours a month. The service, while pricier, is still far less expensive than Ma Bell's regular Internet rates of $16.95 for 150 hours a month or $21.95 for unlimited monthly usage.

The $10.95 monthly service (which comes sans ad banner) is only available to i495 members. Consumers using the $6.95 monthly Internet service bundled with their long-distance service are not affected.

Janet Wyles, AT&T WorldNet spokesperson, said the special offer works out well for a majority of its i495 customers who will now be capped at 50 hours. The current model, she said, was no longer supportable.

"We've found that most customers, in fact, use less than 40 hours," she said. "Anybody that looks at the advertising market or the economy in general in the last year can see there's been some significant changes. It doesn't make business sense for AT&T to put an offer out there that's not financially paying dividends for us."

The i495 service, launched in the first week of January, attempted to reach out to the growing number of consumers looking to find a thriftier way onto the Internet. At a time when many free ISPs were going out of business or launching their own monthly service to stay in business, WorldNet hoped to nab customers to its own ad banner-driven service.

Although WorldNet i495 users still had to deal with a persistent ad banner, customers were given the same level of support and dial-in numbers as that given to the pricier WorldNet service.

Wyles wouldn't comment on the number of users who have already transitioned over to one of the new WorldNet services. She said that users who haven't signed up for one of WorldNet's new service plans by Jan. 4 will be automatically switched to the $10.95 service.