Originally created 12/05/03

AOL offers new subscribers $299 PC kit

NEW YORK -- In its latest attempt to stem declining subscriber numbers at its flagship Internet service, America Online is offering new customers a computer for $299.

The offer, which expires at month's end, requires a one-year subscription at $23.90 a month. The low-end computer comes with a color printer and 17-inch monitor, a package worth about $750.

AOL and other Internet services introduced similar deals in 1999, offering $400 rebates on computer equipment for subscribers who signed up for three years. The expensive promotions ended after a few years.

AOL, of Dulles, Va., is still the largest Internet service provider, with 24.7 million U.S. subscribers on Sept. 30. But it has lost 2 million subscriber since last year to competitors with cheaper dial-up service and faster broadband connections.

Last month, AOL introduced a dial-up service with limited features for $9.95 a month under the Netscape brand.

The computer included in the latest promotion, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is built by Systemax Inc., of Port Washington, N.Y. It has a 1.7 gigahertz Intel Celeron processor, 256 megabytes of memory and a 40 gigabyte hard drive. It has a CD-ROM drive, but no CD burner or DVD drive.

The printer is a Lexmark color inkjet model.

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