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
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.

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