Washington, 9 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The world's largest Internet provider, America Online, cut service to Russia when it discovered a suspicious surge in hourly usage time.
Susan Porter, spokeswoman for America Online, told RFE/RL that direct access lines to Russia have been shut down since mid-December when the unusual activity was first uncovered. Porter said the shutdown was only temporary.
"We are researching the situation to see what we can do," she said.
Porter said that America Online has 7 million customers. Less than 2,000 of them enter America Online through Russian access numbers.
American students and businessmen in Russia are likely to be the most affected, although for a steep price they can access America Online through the computer systems of other Russian carriers such as Glasnet and Russia Online.
The newspaper "USA Today" reported Tuesday that Russian organized crime rings are suspect, but Porter said that it is too early to determine who is involved.
Porter couldn't say when the service will be restored. She said America Online is making every effort to find the means to renew service.