AT&T Broadband is the latest MSO to jump on the multiple-access
bandwagon, signing an agreement with EarthLink Inc. to allow the nation's
third-largest Internet-service provider onto its cable-modem network.
EarthLink will first launch service in AT&T Broadband's Seattle market
sometime early this summer, followed by the Greater Boston market. Plans for now
would add more cities in 2003.
'It's a win for the consumer and it's a win for the two companies,' AT&T
Broadband president and CEO Bill Schleyer said. 'By offering a choice of ISPs,
we expect to drive further penetration of our data products into the marketplace
and, at the same time, to improve our customer satisfaction.'
The pricing for the EarthLink offering has not been released, but CEO Garry
Betty said it will be competitive.
'We are very happy with the relationship that we have negotiated with
AT&T, and I think, as we have stated in the past, that it continues to
provide us with a great incentive to lead with a broadband cable offering in the
markets where broadband and DSL [digital subscriber line] are available,' Betty
AT&T spent $20 million in 2000 on a multiple-ISP access test in Boulder,
Colo. -- with EarthLink among the participating ISPs -- and it had planned a
wider trial in Boston. That trial, however, was shelved at just about the time
AT&T Broadband announced its merger with Comcast Corp.
Comcast, meanwhile, joined the multiple-ISP ranks earlier this month, cutting
a deal with United Online Inc. to bring its Juno and NetZero services to its
EarthLink had participated in trials with Comcast, but it has not yet cut any
deals with the Philadelphia-based MSO.
For both MSOs, adding alternative ISPs could strengthen their hand among
regulators evaluating the merger. Schleyer said the Denver-based MSO is in talks
with other ISPs, but he downplayed any connection between the deal and the
pending merger, saying, 'any regulatory issue is coincidental.'
'Our relationship with EarthLink and our relationship with other ISPs is not
dependent on Comcast at this point in time,' he added.
The AT&T Broadband agreement is the latest in a series of deals for
EarthLink, which had racked up 471,000 broadband customers by the end of 2001
and which is already offering cable-modem service in 24 Time Warner Cable
markets so far, including El Paso, Texas, which was added this week.
It has plans to launch in Time Warner's remaining 15 major markets by the end
of the year.
'AT&T and EarthLink both see the business advantage of being able to
offer their service to consumers through multiple sales channels,' Betty said.
'We'll continue to work with other cable companies as the word spreads about the
business advantage of running multiple-ISP systems.'