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MSN Pens Dial-Up Deal With StarNet

Hoping to increase its dial-up Internet presence, the Microsoft Network (MSN) signed a contract with wholesale provider StarNet Inc. Monday.

The deal puts MSN in an array of new communities in the U.S., giving it a footprint that includes roughly 1,200 Points of Presence (POPs) in metropolitan markets and in rural and underserved areas.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Michael Alonzo, StarNet senior account executive, is credited with landing the MSN contract. He said MSN officials were surprised that a relatively unknown company, to major Internet service providers anyways, had such a large coverage area.

"I cold-called them and approached them about StarNet providing dial up access, and they were surprised that a company with no stock symbol and not on the market could offer the access we have," Alonzo said. "Once they saw what we had to offer, though, they signed on."

MSN now gets instant access from some of the 1,200 worldwide POPs StarNet owns, access it couldn't get from industry heavyweights like AT&T and UUNet.

Bob Visse, MSN group product manager, said MSN will now be able to "offer fast and reliable Internet connections to even more consumers."

With that access, MSN can market these new areas and garner more subscribers in its quest to catch up with AOL Time Warner, which has 17.5 million dial-up customers. MSN lags a distant fifth in terms of subscribers, with four million dial up subscribers.

StarNet has roughly 1,000 ISPs signed on for wholesale service to date. Among them are Juno Online Services Inc. and NetZero Inc., respectively the third and fourth largest dial-up Internet providers.

Russ Intravartolo, StarNet StarNet chief executive officer, said the deal validates its business model and brings three of the top five ISPs in the nation under his purview.

"We're excited and honored that a company with the stature of MSN has selected StarNet to provide such a core service to their subscribers," Intravartolo said. "I believe that the selection of StarNet by MSN further validates us as a leading provider of wholesale dial-up access service."