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No. 2 long-distance marketer MCI Communications Corp. entered the shopping business last week with the rollout of an Internet access service backed by a virtual mall.

internetMCI targets business and consumer users by offering full Internet access, e-mail, a daily news service and a secure electronic shopping environment (

MCI's entry brings a recognizable brand name into competition with existing online services like America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy. The company hopes to recruit subscribers from its 10 million long-distance customers.

internetMCI builds on an existing Web site tied to its "Gramercy Press" campaign unveiled last November.

The price-$9.95 monthly and $2.50 per hour after the first five hours-is slightly high among providers of direct Internet access; some companies offer full Internet access for a flat rate of $20 to $30 monthly.

marketplaceMCI aims to set itself apart by offering a wide range of merchandise from retailers such as Hammacher Schlemmer & Co., OfficeMax and PC Zone. Coming soon: Amtrak, Borders Books & Music, and Timberland Co.

The site was designed by CKS Partners, Cupertino, Calif.; transaction security was developed by Netscape Communications Corp.

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