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At Your Service

With all the Internet has to offer, do you still need the power of an online service?

The internet offers a vast, worldwide storehouse of information, with more Web sites and information added to it every day. All you need to get unlimited access to that information is a Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator, and a $20-per-month subscription to an Internet service provider (ISP). You even get e-mail free of charge.

With all the information available on the Web, does anyone still need to subscribe to an online service such as America Online (AOL), CompuServe or Prodigy? After all, on the surface, both Web and online services seem to provide similar features. Both offer news, reference information and e-mail. And all the commercial services even furnish Internet interfaces--although they are not quite as easy to use as Netscape Navigator.

Most of the commercial services charge a monthly fee of $9.95 for five hours of free access to most of their services (though CompuServe charges a premium for some services), with subsequent time at $2.95 per hour. Heavy users can get special rates. CompuServe's Super Value Club, for example, lets members pay $24.95 monthly and receive 20 hours of online time with additional hours costing $1.95 each. With Prodigy, you get 30 hours per month for $30. AOL's value pricing runs $19.95 per month for unlimited use.

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This article was originally published in the January 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: At Your Service.

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