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EarthLink Secures Forward Base with Compaq

EarthLink appears to be making an aggressive play to raise the profile of its Internet access service in the eyes of consumers.

On Wednesday, the company forged an agreement with IBM Corp. to offer its dial-up service on every new IBM computer sold in the United States. IBM is one of the smaller players in the market for consumer-oriented computers, but EarthLink went after bigger fish Thursday, landing a deal with no. 2 PC manufacturer Compaq Computer Corp. to offer broadband services through all new Presario Internet PCs sold in the U.S.

Both deals are part of EarthLink's "Out of the Box Experience" (OOBE) strategy, which aims to put the EarthLink service before consumers the moment they first turn on their new PCs.

"Compaq's industry-leading PC hardware and EarthLink's award-winning Internet service and support are a strong combination," said John Kortier, vice president of channel sales at EarthLink. "And since EarthLink can provide high-speed Internet access to more of the country than our competitors, we're an even more attractive OEM partner."

In the past few years, EarthLink has aggressively pursued multiple broadband technologies and has run high-profile advertising campaigns to tout its high-speed solutions. Its service is now available through DSL, cable and two-way satellite.

"Compaq strives to offer customers a variety of Internet service options to allow the customer to choose their preferred method of accessing information, entertainment and e-mail on the Web," said Kevin Kyle, general manager of Access Solutions for Compaq. "EarthLink's large service area for high-speed cable, DSL and two-way satellite broadband access allows Compaq to offer high-speed services to improve the overall Internet experience for our customers."

Under the deal cut by EarthLink and Compaq, Compaq customers who opt to sign on for EarthLink High Speed Internet will receive eight e-mail mailboxes, eight Personal Start Pages, eight 10 MB Web sites, a free unlimited dial-up connection, free 24/7 technical support and customer service and software.