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March 25, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:31pm

NETCOM FINALLY ROLLS OUT INCOMPLETE HIGHER RATE PLAN

By CBR Staff Writer

Netcom On-line Communications Services Inc, the Internet Service Provider (ISP), or plain old Netcom to its friends, yesterday duly unveiled its new pricing plans which it hopes will help it to haul itself from the mire that it’s been in over the last six months. The share price is just about at a 52-week low, having shed some 45% of its value in the past 13 weeks alone. Those weeks comprise the limbo-land the San Jose, California-based ISP left itself in after announcing in December that it would abandon the $20 per month flat-rate pricing that the likes of America Online Inc and Microsoft Network (MSN) had just opted for, and would instead concentrate on business customers and offer them a higher rate service with better support and access levels. Yesterday’s announcement appears at first glance to be another flat rate, just a bit higher. But that’s not the whole picture, because the company is not really sure what it is going to charge to whom, or when. The main plan for regular internet dial-up access is as follows. Starting in mid-April, Netcom will offer its NetcomPlete Advantage program for $24.95 per month plus an initial $25 fee. It gives users an additional mailbox, up to 1Mb of space for a personal web page, and tools including McAfee anti-virus software, plus global roaming and mail forwarding. The global roaming costs another $6.95 per month, $1.00 per log-in and an extra ten cents a minute to use the service. But this begs the question of what the difference is between this and a $20 rate plan, apart from the higher cost that will probably mean fewer subscribers and therefore more chance of getting on? There are going to be further charges for two plans designed to enable faster, more reliable access, but Netcom has not figured out what the charges are yet, despite churning out four press releases yesterday, running to some 13 pages. It says it will announce pricing some time next quarter, but didn’t know when, thus ensuring another limbo period the ISP can ill afford. Netcom plans to roll-out US Robotics Inc’s x2 56Kbps modem technology to NetcomPlete Advantage customers in 11 major markets across the US by next month. But it also has a plan called its Acceptable Use Policy implemented through a Fair Use initiative. Sounding a bit like a teacher telling off a child for spoiling everybody else’s fun, Netcom says the service will improve service for the majority (97%) of its users it says just log on to check mail or whatever and log off immediately. It says a small minority of customers consumer a disproportionate amount of network resources by using a continuous dial-up connection. These users may be given lower priority access over the majority of well- behaved customers. Netcom said it will work with those heavy-usage customers to find alternative ways to better meet their on-line needs. Both of these options will cost extra. Existing $20 per month customer can either stay where they are or upgrade to NetcomPlete Advantage. Those that do the latter within 90 days of their availbility date do not pay the $25 fee. There are six other service options coming from Netcom, including an enhanced basic service, called NetcomPlete Advantage; web hosting and web hosting with access; mission-critical connections; secure connections and entire web-site connection.

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