- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

12:40 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — AOL is considering giving away more of its services, including e-mail, to customers who already have a high-speed Internet connection, a person familiar with the discussions said today.

Under one proposal being considered, AOL would no longer charge subscription fees to users with high-speed Internet access or dial-up service from another provider. AOL customers with dial-up Internet access through AOL still would have to pay as much as $25.90 a month.

The person familiar with the talks said the proposal is an outcome of a major strategic review at AOL over the past several months. The idea, the person said, is to find more ways to expand AOL’s advertising opportunities as the Sterling, Va., company’s subscriber base continues to shrink.

Over the past year and a half, the Time Warner Inc. unit has been making more of its articles, video and other services available for free on its ad-supported Web sites. However, some features, including e-mail with an AOL.com address, have remained available to paying subscribers only.

AOL offers free e-mail services, but only through its Web site and with an AIM.com address. AOL offered to forward former subscribers’ AOL.com e-mail to AIM accounts, but many didn’t bother because they had to give friends new e-mail addresses anyway.

If the proposal is adopted, former subscribers would be able to keep their AOL.com address and use the AOL software they have been accustomed to using.

AOL had 18.6 million U.S. subscribers as of March 31, a drop of 835,000 from the previous quarter and down from a peak of 26.7 million in September 2002.

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