Helping Users Reconnect

MegaPath, Axcelerant and other companies locate service providers for DSL subscribers.

Derek Breiland has been through this before. Just five months ago, when NorthPoint Communications Inc. went out of business, Breiland, communications services manager at Fastenal Co., in Winona, Minn., turned to his ISP (Internet service provider) to find new DSL (digital subscriber line) connections for dozens of retail sites around the country. What he settled on at many of Fastenals locations was Rhythms NetConnections Inc. It was an unfortunate choice.

The game of DSL musical chairs is speeding up as Rhythms customers scramble to find other high-speed links before the bankrupt provider turns off the switch Sept. 10. The plight of the DSL companies has spawned a cottage industry of companies helping hapless users move from defunct providers to—hopefully—more stable ones.

MegaPath Networks Inc., an ISP and network services provider in Pleasanton, Calif., last week rolled out its Broadband Rescue program for Rhythms subscribers. The program transfers businesses to Covad Communications Co. or New Edge Networks Inc., and Rhythms customers receive free installation and a free router on some premium speed packages.

Even companies that dont provide Internet access themselves are taking advantage of the DSL providers demise.

Axcelerant Inc.s LifeLine program, targeted at large enterprise customers, coordinates service migration by determining the most appropriate provider, placing the order, monitoring the order and extinguishing the existing connection. In helping an enterprise migrate to new access providers, the Irvine, Calif., company scores a new customer for its own service specialty, which is managing private networks and virtual private networks that operate over cable, DSL and ISDN technologies.

Enterprises that use Rhythms private network technology are a prime target for Axcelerants services because many of the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers and cable companies do not offer equivalent private networks.

The services are striking a chord with DSL users left in the lurch such as Breiland, who did not have all of his NorthPoint-turned-Rhythms lines lit before he had to start thinking about another transition.

"There had been indications that this was coming," Breiland said. "I cant say I didnt see it coming."

About 35 Fastenal sites use Rhythms service today, 15 of which were moved to the recently bankrupt provider from NorthPoint by MegaPath in the spring, but Breiland does not resent this move.

"It was the only thing we could get," Breiland said.

The majority of MegaPaths approximately 5,000 customers using Rhythms will not experience any high-speed access interruption because MegaPath began ordering backup connections even before Rhythms, in Englewood, Colo., announced the looming service shutdown, officials said.

MegaPath is working to establish relationships with several RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies), but today it offers RBOC-based service only in northern California.

For Axcelerant, the customer relationship shortcomings of the large and unwieldy regional service providers translate into an opportunity to serve as middlemen.