MCI Worldcom is returning to the Internet Service Provider market it was forced to abandon last year by joining forces with America Online (AOL) subsidiary, Compuserve.
The Internet service will be called MCI Worldcom Internet and includes a new portal site developed by Compuserve, with a search engine, news, weather, sports and stock quotes. Compuserve will sell advertising on the portal.
The deal extends an existing partnership between AOL and MCI Worldcom, which provides the backbone for AOL?s online service.
?We?re back,? said Vint Cerf, MCI Worldcom?s senior vice president of Internet architecture and technology.
Last year, MCI sold its Internet access service to Cable & Wireless for $1.75 billion, on the precondition that Worldcom?s $40 billion acquisition of MCI was approved.
John Donoghue, MCI Worldcom?s senior vice president of marketing, explained: ?We had to sell off our ISP service as a condition to having our merger approved, but there are no conditions attached to our activities going forward.?
Its new offering is targeted at consumers and small businesses, and will also be offered to MCI Worldcom?s long distance customers at the discounted price of $16.95 per month for up to 150 hours of access. Other customers will pay $19.95.
But the service is likely to open up additional areas of competition between MCI Worldcom and AT&T, which has its own Internet access business and is also branching out into broadband access. Donoghue said: ?We have always intended to drive [AT&T?s] market share down to zero, and see this as another opportunity to get there.?
MCI Worldcom Internet will also compete with AOL?s own core business, although Audrey Weil, Compuserve?s chief operating officer, noted that this type of partnership between rivals is likely to become increasingly common in the Internet space.
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