MSN goes hunting for angry AOL users

Microsoft's MSN Networks is on a mission to poach America Online's Internet customers just one week after AOL announced a subscription price increase.

Microsoft's MSN Networks is on a mission to poach America Online's Internet customers just one week after AOL announced a subscription price increase.

MSN on Tuesday launched a $50 million nationwide advertising campaign designed to persuade customers to ditch their AOL Internet service and sign up for the Microsoft service. MSN is offering customers who switch to its service by June 30 three months of free Internet access as well as a $21.95 monthly rate guarantee until January 2003.

Last week, rival AOL said it is raising its monthly subscription rate by $1.95 to $23.90 beginning this summer. The 9 percent increase to AOL's monthly unlimited-use plan had been widely anticipated by Wall Street as the company attempts to reach near-term financial goals. Microsoft at the time said that its MSN service, which has 5 million subscribers, or less than one-fifth as many as AOL, does not plan to follow the New York-base media giant's lead with a price increase of its own.

Microsoft also on Tuesday claimed that since AOL's recent subscription increase, MSN has received 50 percent more inquiries from potential customers who are looking for an alternative to AOL.

MSN Internet Access includes content and services from Microsoft's MSN portal site and from MSN Explorer, which combines the Redmond, Wash.-based company's various Internet products and services such as messaging and music software. The company said customers interested in its special offer can sign up on its Web site.