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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

AT&T Set for Internet Access Launch

NEW YORK -- The newest symbol for explosive growth on the Internet may be the online address "'' that arrives this week.

AT&T is jumping into the consumer Internet service business by offering free accounts to its 90 million residential and business customers, including the estimated 25 million who have computers and modems.

If AT&T's WorldNet service attracts even a substantial percentage of those customers, it could mark a key transition in the Internet's growth as a mass medium, say analysts. It also could lead to lower prices as other companies rush to match AT&T's pricing.

Beginning Thursday, AT&T will offer up to five hours of free Internet access per month for a year to those who use AT&T for long-distance telephone service. Each additional hour will cost $2.50. Unlimited service will cost $19.95 a month, about the same as many other service providers charge.

"It's a field of dreams," said Dave Farber, a computer expert at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "You'll now build it and see if anyone actually comes -- and if they can make money at it."