From its inception, EarthLink has seen itself as David to America Onlines Goliath.
Seven years later, the sentiment remains.
"Youve got one huge beast and a bunch of little beauties," says EarthLink President Mike McQuary.
EarthLink is the second largest U.S. Internet service provider in terms of number of subscribers — 4.7 million — and the third largest in 2000 revenue — $987 million. But thats not enough for the Atlanta-based ISP.
In its effort to be No. 1 both in market share and customer service, EarthLink is aggressively pursuing the broadband market, which McQuary believes is growing exponentially compared to the dial-up industry. EarthLink reported a 0.2 percent drop among dial-up subscribers last year, but DSL service customers increased 760 percent. Within three or four years, McQuary predicts, revenue from DSL users will equal that generated by dial-up customers.
With its new slogan, "EarthLink Everywhere," the company is positioning itself as the only ISP that offers customers a seamless broadband connection at home, work or on the road.
It plans to accomplish this by forging strategic alliances in the cable, satellite and wireless worlds. This became possible in February, when EarthLink and Sprint reworked the terms of their 3-year-old exclusive alliance to allow third-party agreements. Sprint still owns 26 percent of EarthLink stock.
EarthLink has a contract with Time Warner Cable to deliver Internet access over cable into 20 million homes in the second half of this year. The service provider is also in trials with AT&T Broadband, Comcast and Cox Communications, and by the end of 2002, McQuary predicts his company will have agreements with "all the major cable players."
In addition, EarthLink is targeting rural and underserved dial-up areas through satellite agreements with Sprint and Hughes Network Systems DirecPC. Its also going after the wireless market via alliances with Motorola and Metricom, and launched a home computer networking service in April.