RealTime IT News

EarthLink Finds Dial-Up Alternate

EarthLink , perhaps a bit worried about recent troubles at telecom giant WorldCom, signed a deal with another wholesale dial-up Internet provider, officials announced Monday.

StarNet, one of a few remaining pure-play wholesale dial-up providers in the nation today, is opening up its 2,900 POPs throughout the U.S. and Canada to the Internet service provider's (ISP) 4.9 million customers.

Officials at StarNet would not comment on the contract terms, though the deal is a significant win for a company already providing POP access (the server people connect to the Internet) to two major national ISPs -- MSN and United Online .

Pure play POP providers are a dying breed in the U.S.; StarNet's archrivals are industry giants like Level 3 , Global Crossing, UUNet (a WorldCom subsidiary) and AT&T , who offer ancillary services in addition to POP coverage.

The services offered by these companies have driven most of the POP-only wholesalers out of business, including ZipLink (notable for providing access to now-defunct free ISP Spinway) and NaviPath, which shut down its network abruptly last year.

WorldCom, which took over ZipLink's customer base in 2000, now finds itself the unlucky recipient of customer fears that its own UUNet-fueled network might go dark. Since the company's troubles began earlier this year, customers have been scrambling to find a new carrier.

While the customer influx hasn't been as large as ZipLink or NaviPath's demise, Michael Alonzo, StarNet's manager of dial up sales, said business has been good since the WorldCom worries began several months ago.

"UUNet carries a ton of traffic and there are a lot of people that have called and inquired and got a contingency plan in place and there have been quite a few that have actually switched over," he said. "I don't know if they've shut their deal off with UUNet, but they have migrated traffic from the UUNet network over to ours."

There are several deals more deals in the pipeline, Alonzo continued, "and probably some that are close but (we) haven't even been able to breathe a word about yet. With the competition dropping like flies, there should be a lot of (deals) coming up."

StarNet, like WorldCom, provides 56K, V.90 and ISDN service in the U.S. and Canada. According to Steve Dean, EarthLink vice president of operations business management, the wholesale provider's extensive reach was one of the main reasons for the contract announced Monday.

"This agreement will allow EarthLink customers to continue to enjoy reliable and consistent dial-up connections that they have come to expect," he said.