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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Internet Sale May Boost Access to Service for All

NEW YORK -- Selling user-friendly ways to access the Internet web of computer networks has become the latest pot-of-gold in the communications industry. But as companies incorporate to offer easy access and a slew of others add Internet gateways to their product lists, free access is still available. The Internet -- a web of thousands of electronic networks -- is owned by no one and operated by ad hoc agreements among network creators to use the same computer protocols. Its use is growing about 10 percent a month, according to a group of Silicon Valley companies proposing commercial use of the Internet in what they will call CommerceNet. While some Internet pioneers campaign actively against commercial uses, worrying that it will kill the free flow of ideas that now takes place, some computer industry analysts see the objections as a little paranoid. The commercial sale of Internet access can co-exist with free access, they say, and the result will be more use by consumers and new business opportunities for entrepreneurs."If you put the capitalist motive into an available technology, suddenly you get big leaps forward in usage and more technology," said analyst Laura Conigliaro of Prudential Securities. Joshua Harris, the president of the Jupiter Communications consulting firm which ran a conference on commercializing the Internet, said companies selling gateways to the Internet -- with the enhancements they attach -- can be compared to the oil companies that refine crude oil so it can power automobiles. This week, computer entrepreneur James Clark, who founded Silicon Graphics Inc., announced he is forming a new company, Mosaic Communications Corp., to sell a software that lets people navigate Internet easily and retrieve information from it. "The Internet is crude oil and Mosaic is a refiner," Harris said. The Internet, by its nature, is a crude network of data that most people find hard to use because of its difficult-to-penetrate computer language. Thousands of contributors around the world put material onto the network to disseminate ideas, including many government and academic institutions. Online services like Prodigy, America Online, Genie, Delphi and Compuserve are racing to provide access to the Internet as part of their online services. Prodigy is owned by International Business Machines Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. Delphi Internet Services is owned by News Corp. and Genie by General Electric Co. Customers pay them a monthly subscription of around $10 to $14.95. Internet's use has long been free to millions of people at universities, government agencies and corporate research departments around the globe who know Unix computer commands. Hackers get free access by knowing how to find a network. The main operating cost to Internet access providers is a fee paid to one of three backbone networks that set up a T-3 transmission protocol -- Advanced Network & Services Inc., UUNET Technologies and PSI or Performance Systems International -- or Sprint Corp.'s SprintNet packet switching backbone.