EarthLink beams up Net by satellite

Summary:The ISP adds high-speed satellite hook-up to the Internet in a broadband challenge to the growing might of AOL Time Warner and Microsoft.

In a push to expand its broadband services, EarthLink has launched high-speed satellite Internet-access service, the company said Tuesday.

The service will first be available on the East Coast before being offered across the country at the end of May, the company said.

Dubbed "EarthLink Satellite Powered by Direct PC," the service is another step in the company's effort to counter the growing might of Internet-access offerings from AOL Time Warner and Microsoft. EarthLink has an agreement to use AOL Time Warner's cable network as well as those of Charter Communications. It is also testing services over the cable systems of Cox Communications, AT&T and Comcast.

"The ability to offer broadband service to virtually the entire country has been our ultimate target," Tom Andrus, vice president of emerging technologies at EarthLink, said in a statement. "By adding satellite to our product lineup, we will reach areas not served by cable and DSL."

The DSL market has taken a major blow after several providers, such as Flashcom and Northpoint Communications, have gone out of business, and others such as PSINet, Covad Communications and Rhythms NetConnections are left struggling.

Expansion into Internet services over satellite might be a necessity in some rural areas where DSL and cable service providers have been pulling back because of the sparse population.

According to Dylan Brooks, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix, EarthLink over the last quarter lost ground to MSN as the No. 2 Internet service provider (ISP), falling to third place, with AOL remaining solidly in the No. 1 position.

Cable remains the preferred choice among Internet users in the United States, according to Brooks, with 3 million people using cable, compared with 1.2 million using DSL and 50,000 to 100,000 using satellite services.

EarthLink's service costs $69.95 per month for downstream speeds of up to 400kbps and upstream speeds of up to 128kbps. There is also a charge of $649 for the equipment and $250 for professional installation.

News.com's Erich Luening contributed to this report.

Topics: Nasa / Space, AT&T, Broadband, Microsoft, Networking

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