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AT&T FORESEES INTERNET ISSUE.

Byline: Karyn Hunt Associated Press

AT&T will eventually have to address the problem of people who use the Internet to circumvent long-distance carriers to avoid big monthly bills, AT&T Chairman and CEO Robert Allen said Tuesday.

With the advancement of digital technology, some computer users are able to make voice telephone calls - computer to computer - via the Internet using long-haul data lines, some of which are also part of the phone system. Many telephone companies lease those lines to give their customers a route onto the Information Superhighway.

In bypassing long-distance servers, these users pay only the base Internet access price, which can be as low as $20 per month. One or two international calls a month quickly runs up a bill that far exceeds that.

That isn't a big threat to AT&T's business yet because not many people have the programs to use those lines, Allen said. Even if they do, the quality is often poor, at best.

But the problem could one day represent a loss for the company.

``While I don't lose a lot of sleep over people who are cutting into our business charges by using the Internet for business services today, it's something that we should be more rigorous about in the future,'' Allen said during a luncheon speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

Allen added that the company is hedging against big losses in this area by offering flat price packages that cannot be duplicated on line. For example, packages offering Internet access, wireless communications and pagers as well as long-distance service.

``If we're in the right position to offer you a communications package that takes care of all your needs and doesn't cause you to think about artificial barriers, what happens on the Internet is almost inconsequential,'' he said.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 11, 1996
Words:301
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