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EarthLink Expects to Beat Growth Forecasts

Free Internet access offers haven't put a damper on EarthLink Networks Inc. anticipated subscriber base growth this year.

The national Internet service provider announced Monday that it expects to surpass its new member growth estimates for the third and fourth quarters, ending the year with nearly 2 million members.

EarthLink reports it is on pace to add 230,000 new members in the third quarter and 370,000 in the fourth quarter. If the company sustains new subscriber growth trends, EarthLink will end the year with nearly 2 million members.

Garry Betty, EarthLink president and chief executive officer, said that much of their current growth is coming from clients that are switching from other providers.

"We've seen a solid increase in our member growth which is based on our successful organic growth strategy and focus on the switcher market," Betty said.

"Last year we announced a detailed accelerated growth plan to position ourselves as the clear alternative to AOL. EarthLink has grown more rapidly than any other ISP over the last year and we achieved this while maintaining a solid, high-quality service as evidenced by our industry-leading low churn rate," he added.

Betty said that recent promotions for free Internet access has not put a damper on new enrollment for EarthLink services.

"Even with the recent announcements of many free ISP, PC and rebate deals along with the entrance of PC manufacturers into the ISP market, it's clear that businesses and consumers still value a reliable, service-oriented ISP, Betty said. "In addition, EarthLink's accelerated growth has been achieved with very acceptable acquisition costs."

EarthLink has recently completed a number of exclusive provider arrangements that competitively positions the ISP to develop new subscribers from niche markets like the one million FreeMac.com computer users and national insurance and merchant organizations.

Last month, EarthLink inked a deal with AOL to distribute co-branded Instant Messenger services. The ambitious ISP also established national Digital Subscriber Liner services with deals through GTE and UUNET networks.

Headquartered in Pasadena, EarthLink provides Internet access and Web hosting services through more than 2,300 points of presence nationwide.