EarthLink Reinvents Its Supply Chain

ZD net: Internet service provider EarthLink is taking big steps to gain its independence from the cable and DSL providers it relies on for access to broadband customers.
The company has taken some heavy knocks in the past few months. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling declaring that cable providers do not have to share access to their networks. The Federal Communications Commission soon followed with a ruling that essentially said DSL providers don’t have to offer discounted rates to ISPs, such as EarthLink, which use DSL networks to deliver services.
“We have been so disenchanted about our ability to get access to broadband pipes that we felt like we needed to take a more proactive stance,” said Garry Betty, chief executive officer of EarthLink. “But it’s a hard living. It’s like being a sharecropper. They are basically selling (access) to me for almost what they are selling it to consumers. And it’s hard.”
The company has been busy exploring new technologies that would allow it to bypass the cable and DSL networks altogether. Examining opportunities in everything from broadband service delivered via power lines to wireless broadband systems such as WiMax and citywide Wi-Fi, EarthLink is determined to find a technology that puts it in control.
Municipal Wi-Fi looks to be the technology with the most legs at the moment. The company announced a contract to build a wireless broadband network for the city of Philadelphia. EarthLink will shoulder the $10 million to $15 million it will cost to blanket the 135 square miles of the city. In exchange, EarthLink gets access to the rights of way to build the network and will also benefit from the city’s marketing efforts to promote the new service.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.