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Microworkz.com Joins Free Access Fray

Following a bitter split with Earthlink Network Inc. last week, Microworkz.com Friday said it will offer free Internet access to all PC users in the U.S. through a deal with AT&T Corp.

The PC maker will offer 150 hours of access a month at modem speeds up to 56 kilobits a second by Oct. 31. Current Microworkz.com computer customers will be able to sign up by Aug. 21.

"We've said from the beginning that we would bring both computers and the Internet to everyone," said Rick Latman, Microworkz's CEO. "As we move to the next millennium this access, and computers like the $199 iToaster, will be staple components in every person's life."

Microworkz.com includes telephone technical support, personal homepages and a free e-mail account in the deal. Instant messaging and chat are also featured.

The free Internet access service will be supported by omnipresent banner ads. An ad-less package is available for $11.99 per month.

Microworkz.com signed a $300 million deal earlier this week with AT&T to provide Microworkz.com ISP customers with dial-up connections.

EarthLink dumped Microworkz from a Internet access/cheap PC bundle the two companies had cobranded, saying that the PC seller had not met distribution obligations. On Monday EarthLink announced it had filed a lawsuit over the alleged breach of contract, and Microworkz quickly countersued with a claim of faulty EarthLink software.