For automated teller machine networks, the future is now -- or maybe never.

Certainly, ATM networks will have a role in the banking industry for a long time to come, because they have created a successful 24-hour channel to deliver on-line access to consumers' checking accounts and instant cash. But greater opportunity awaits in the e-commerce marketplace: ATM networks are ideally positioned as the real-time payments system that complements the real-time communications system known as the Internet.

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