EarthLink Network Inc. is adding digital-subscriber-line
service to its high-speed Internet-access arsenal, with trials in California preceding a
national launch later this year.
EarthLink, which has more than 1.16 million subscribers
nationally, said last week that it will begin a two-month DSL trial in May, encompassing
some 500 people in Southern California, as a prelude to full commercial launch in the area
during the summer.
The Internet-service provider will use SBC Communications
Inc.'s Pacific Bell network for the trial, offering a $49.95-per-month package with
unlimited usage and data speeds of 385 kilobits per second to 1.5 megabits per second,
depending on the distance between the user and the closest PacBell central office.
EarthLink will sell a kit containing the necessary
network-interface card, DSL modem and line splitter for $198, with PacBell doing the
The DSL rollout follows other aggressive high-speed-access
moves by EarthLink. Sprint Corp. owns a 30 percent stake in the ISP, and it controls a 10
percent voting interest.
The nation's second-largest ISP after America Online Inc.,
EarthLink is offering cable-modem access over Charter Communications systems in several
Southern California markets, including Pasadena, Riverside, Walnut and West Covina, as
well as in Newton, Conn., and St. Louis.
EarthLink will offer the service on other Charter systems,
but it has not yet disclosed other MSO deals, according to spokesman Kurt Rahn. The pace
of deployment in Charter markets will depend on the pace of the MSO's system upgrades and
the marketing potential for individual areas, he noted.
"Each separate system decides if and when they're
going to offer Internet service," Rahn said, "but when Charter rolls something
out, we have the first shot at it."
EarthLink plans a national DSL rollout sometime later this
year. Other DSL deals are also in the works, "but nothing that we can announce right
now," Rahn added.
Regardless of which platform the company uses, DSL could
get a major marketing boost from EarthLink, which spent 28 percent of its total revenue
last quarter on sales and marketing.
EarthLink will likely also resell the DSL platform in other
markets owned by SBC, which has been one of the most ambitious telcos in its plans to
compete with cable-modem services by providing high-speed access over phone lines.
SBC offers ADSL (asymmetrical DSL) service to about 2
million homes, and it plans to access 8.2 million homes in its seven-state territory by
year's end, offering monthly rates as low as $39 to compete with more established
The San Antonio-based Baby Bell last week announced the
availability of its ADSL service in Houston, Dallas and Austin, Texas, and it said it
would create a "Data Communications Center" in Austin to provide ADSL technical
support for its five-state Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. region.
SBC also has a strategic alliance to offer ADSL access to
AOL, which boasts about 17 million customers nationally.