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Charges rise on the Internet

The world's most popular Internet service provider said yesterday that it will boost the monthly charge for unlimited use to $21.95 (pounds 13.71) from $19.95. America Online said the move was necessary to keep pace with increased online usage by its subscribers.

The company also announced a realignment of responsibilities among senior executives and a series of restructuring actions at its CompuServe subsidiary that will lead to the loss of 500 jobs.

America Online said it will make no changes in its current $9.95-a-month plan for limited access and its $4.95 "light usage" plan of three hours plus $2.50 for each additional hour. The $2 increase in the charge for unlimited monthly access to AOL and the Internet will take effect in the April billing cycle.

America Online said it planned to speed up development of the next generation of CompuServe software, but had suspended work on a Web-based service called "C." The firm said it is also reviewing alternatives for Sprynet, CompuServe's Internet service provider unit.

America Online said the 500 CompuServe workers affected by the cutbacks would be offered "generous severance packages", based on length of service with the company.

AOL, which is based in Dulles, Virginia, said it planned to continue to operate CompuServe, formerly its arch-rival, as a separate service with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

-- Reuters