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Internet roaming? One-number access? What technologies will help ISPs map their nationwide and worldwide access strategies?
The world may be getting smaller, but global Internet access headaches seem to be expanding. As Internet service providers (ISPs) consider global market opportunities, rather than just focus on national or regional territories, and users increasingly seek dial-in numbers while travelling, ISPs must deploy various methods to address the two demands.
So far, those methods have been to provide a single access number, such as a charged 800 number, or to set up roaming agreements in which their users can access remote ISPs' points of presence (POPs).
Just providing ubiquitous national access across America is a tough nut to crack. For U.S. ISPs, roaming services or single-number access may be the differentiator that keeps their users from eyeing other service providers.
"It became something that we obviously had to have to make a complete Internet access service," says Jeff Shafer, corporate spokesperson for Sprint, which provides access to 90,000 users (as of Q2 1997) through its Internet Passport service. "In this business, you work hard to get and keep customers.
"It becomes cumbersome for people to find a local number," Sharer adds. This dilemma becomes all the more evident when users enter a remote or rural area where it's not possible for ISPs to provide a local access number, he says.
So, Sprint has opted to provide one-number access to its U.S. customer base.
For many U.S. ISPs, one-number access is an easier solution than Internet roaming, especially if they happen to own a long distance phone network.
Case in point: Sprint Internet Passport offers nationwide access via an 800-number for $4.80 an hour, in addition …