Bell Atlantic debuts Internet-access service Competitive rate, name may aid sales

August 01, 1996|By Abbe Gluck | Abbe Gluck,SUN STAFF

Bell Atlantic began providing dial-up Internet access to Baltimore and Washington area residents yesterday, with rates that analysts say are low enough to compete with the majors and a brand name strong enough to drive minor providers out of business.

The service, Bell, provides unlimited Internet access for $19.95 per month, a rate that is competitive with most providers, including AT&T Corp., said Gary Arlen of Arlen Communications Inc. in Bethesda. The package also includes a Netscape Communications World Wide Web browser, electronic mail, chat rooms and the search engines that other providers supply.

But what Bell says makes its service different is the company's home page, where it has organized 3,000 sites into categories that will make surfing the Net a lot more efficient -- especially for beginners, said Juan Veiga, Bell's vice president of product development.

The home page also includes a link, "local living," with local information organized into subject categories such as entertainment and sports.

Until this point, Baltimore residents have obtained dial-up access through service providers that range from large companies, such as Netcom On-Line Communications Services Inc., to small local providers. And while people like Frank Adams, president of Grotech Capital Group in Timonium, said Bell's new service was "only a matter of time," he also said it will threaten smaller providers.

Arlen agreed, stressing "the local brand-name advantage Bell will get from this."

According to local provider David Stoddard, "They're not going after AT&T and MCI, because Bell's not national -- they're going after the small providers." Stoddard is chief executive officer of US Net, a Silver Spring provider with 3,000 regional customers. Although US Net is competitively priced at $18.95 per month, Bell's ability to advertise through its billing system will put US Net and other small companies at a disadvantage, Stoddard said.

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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