Broadband users may get free AOL

Time Warner’s AOL unit may offer its full menu of services, including e-mail, free of charge to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection, according to a published report.

AOL could give up as much as $2 billion in subscription revenue if a gambit aimed at boosting the Internet service’s advertising revenue goes ahead, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

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Under the plan, AOL would stop charging subscription fees for users with high-speed Internet access or a dial-up service from another provider, the newspaper said.

Subscribers who have traditional “dial-up” Internet access through AOL would still have to pay their monthly fee, the Journal said.

AOL expects that 8 million of its existing dial-up customers would cancel their subscription to take advantage of the new offer. Nearly one-third of the company’s customer base of 18.6 million in the first quarter already has high-speed access, the newspaper said.

The company is losing subscribers to high-speed Internet providers at a quick pace, losing about 850,000 in the first quarter, the Journal said. Total U.S. subscribers at the end of 2002 was 26.5 million, the newspaper said.

AOL Chief Executive Jonathan Miller presented the proposal to top Time Warner executives in New York last week, the newspaper said.

Time Warner was not immediately available for comment.

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