The company began to notify customers in June that their rates would increase $2 to $11.99 per month, unless they decide to give up technical support by phone. The notices and rate increases are scheduled in coordination with customers' billing cycles. All subscribers are expected to pay the higher rate by July 27, unless they opt out.
AOL said customers retaining the lower rate would still have phone support for issues restricted to their Internet connections. For general support, AOL subscribers will have to use AOL's online chat feature or its online support portal.
A minority of AOL customers subscribe to the low-cost plan. As of March 31, AOL had 8.7 million domestic subscribers, down 647,000 from the previous quarter. Though it continued to lose subscribers, the rate of decline has decreased.
Customers who are willing to pay $2 more will receive unlimited dial-up service and unlimited live technical support -- via e-mail, chat, and phone -- around the clock. They also receive virus protection, security software, parental controls, spam and pop-up blocking, and 5 GB of Xdrive online storage for photos, music, and files. Subscribers on the $11.99 plan can create up to seven screen names and maintain unlimited e-mail storage.
AOL says the higher rate is still $3 to $10 less than monthly fees charged by other Internet service providers.
Those who want the lower basic rate have to choose the new plan or cancel before the new rate takes effect.
"Otherwise, your continued subscription to the AOL service constitutes your acceptance of this change," the AOL notice states.
An AOL spokesperson said the price increase is because of the cost of providing unlimited live technical support around the clock.
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