INTERACTIVE;AT&T PLOTS MASSIVE 'NET OFFENSIVE

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The war between AT&T and MCI is escalating in cyberspace.

AT&T last week unveiled its plans for the Internet, including providing access, content and hosting capabilities for both business and consumer markets.

AT&T, like MCI Communications Corp., contracted with Netscape Communications Corp. to supply a Web browser. AT&T also will distribute Netscape's server software to companies that want to create a presence on the Internet. Technical trials will begin in 60 days, followed by a phased rollout.

Unlike MCI, which partnered with News Corp. to provide original content for its service, AT&T will strive to personalize the content that's already on the Internet.

"We envision advertiser-supported online content ranging from newsletters to niche publications to catalogs," said Tom Evslin, VP-gateway services at AT&T.

Analysts predict AT&T and MCI will concentrate on cross-promoting long-distance services with e-mail and Internet access to create an efficient package for consumers.

"The amount of PCs that are shipping and the amount of Web sites and marketing that's done on the Internet is creating real demand," said Rick Spence, senior analyst at Dataquest, San Jose, Calif. "Once we see a commercial about e-mail that makes us cry the way some long-distance commercials have done, we'll know the Internet has come of age."

"The Internet is the next level of communications, and we will see fierce battles, but the consumer is the one who will win," said Scott Kurnit, president-CEO of the service formed by MCI and News Corp.

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