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Covad Sets Up Safety Net for Customers

Faced with reassuring customers of struggling ISPs, Covad Communications Monday raised the curtain on the Covad Safety Net Program, intended to help the company's customers maintain Covad service while switching service providers.

The DSL provider said the program is available to customers of financially distressed ISPs. Both broadband providers and ISPs have been struggling in the current economic climate. Covad's competitor NorthPoint Communications laid off 19 percent of its employees last week. Flashcom laid off about 30 percent of its workforce last Friday after failing to pay both NorthPoint and Covad. HarvardNet got out of the DSL business last week and laid off 280 employees and DSL.net cut 141 jobs two weeks ago. Covad has seen its share too. It cut 400 jobs in the beginning of the month.

"Supporting small business and residential customers who want broadband is the most important aspect of Covad Safety Net," said Chuck McMinn, chairman of Covad. "We set up this program to offer broadband Internet services when customers feel their current ISP can no longer support them. By establishing Covad Safety Net, we are providing affected customers with a simple way to change service providers while maintaining their broadband Internet connections.

Covad described Covad Safety Net as an organized transition program offering affected customers a DSL connection and IP services to either an ISP in the program or through COVAD.net, the company's direct Internet service. The company said the transition fee will be waived and the switch to a new provider will occur with minimal interruptions to customers' DSL connections.

Only qualifying customers are eligible for the program. Covad has established a Covad Safety Net button on its homepage, through which customers can learn if they qualify. Qualifying customers will be guided through the Covad Safety Net process. If the line is not transferable, the customer will need to re-order service and be reconnected through COVAD.net or an approved ISP.

"We worked diligently to make the Covad Safety Net experience as automatic, seamless and painless as possible for the customer and the affected ISP," McMinn said. "We're trying very hard to manage a difficult situation with as little customer disruption as possible."

Covad said the first set of customers began the transition process last week and it is currently shifting 2,000 business and consumer DSL customers to COVAD.net or one of the approved ISPs. The company said the switch is automated and all trouble shooting is handled remotely.

"The Covad Safety Net Program is a great solution for everyone involved," said Keith Markley, president and chief operating officer of DSL.net. "As a participant in the program we are in a position to help customers maintain their broadband connections. We support the customer and are working with Covad to transition connections as smoothly as possible."