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America Online Hikes Monthly Fee

America Online is hiking its monthly fee for unlimited access by $2, saying it needs to upgrade its network to handle the onslaught of people taking advantage of its flat price.

Starting April 1, AOL subscribers will pay $21.95 a month.

America Online’s 11 million members are spending an average of 23 hours a month online now, more than triple the time spent online before the unlimited access went on sale. More than 22 million e-mail messages pass through its network every day.

AOL’s new fee, up 10 percent from the current $19.95, will exceed what many Internet service providers charge for access to the broader Internet. Several Internet providers, which unlike AOL don’t offer proprietary content, had no plans to follow AOL’s lead.

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