AOL Dismisses Reports About Family Plan

Recent news articles reported this week that America Online Inc. is developing an
Internet access plan that would let several family members use the same
account simultaneously.

Ann Brackbill, America Online spokesperson dismissed the
reports, saying the stories were based on analysts’ speculations following comments AOL President
Barry Schuler made during a first-quarter earnings conference call.

Brackbill did confirm that AOL is considering such an extension of its
Internet services when it launches its television services later this year,
but said there are no set plans or time frame in place for a shared dial-up
account service from AOL anytime soon.

AOL is officially in the process of constructing its television service
plan, which may afford AOL members simultaneous access to e-mail and
instant messaging services from a single account.

The plan would require that subscribers purchase a modestly priced Internet
device to allow such a service. Naturally separate access fees would be
added to AOL’s $22 a month premium rate plan for such multiple e-mail user
plans.

The problem with simultaneous service from a single account involves
authentication of the user by the Internet service provider. Almost every
ISP in business sets up its connections to identify the users as a valid
address before access is permitted to its network.

In order for ISPs like AOL to profit from providing Net access, an
authentication scheme must validate the user for singular service.
Authenticating multiple users across a single account requires complex
programming, which is reserved for private business services.

While home networks are slowing becoming more of a reality in the U.S., AOL
users do not necessarily desire to pay business-rate fees to establish
multiple, simultaneous connections to the Internet.

America Online currently allows families to create as many as seven
different user names under a single account, but only one person can be
logged on at a time. Singular access has created problems in some
households where children and parents battle for access from different
computer connections.

The only resolution for arguments over home computer access to the Internet
is to install additional phone lines and set up individual accounts with an
ISP. Most families simply schedule times for home use and skip paying
additional fees for individual ISP accounts and costly additional phone
line installations.

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