In addition to acquiring several regional ISPs, MindSpring grew by providing its subscribers with technologies and services as they were being developed. In 1999 the firm introduced high-speed cable modem access to customers in Alabama and Georgia, launched MindSpring Biz to focus on the needs of small business, and developed Internet software packages that emphasized ease of use. In late 1999 MindSpring introduced digital subscriber line (DSL) services in Atlanta and several other cities outside Georgia.
Dayton, a California native, founded EarthLink Network in 1994 in Los Angeles and moved the company to Pasadena, California, in 1996. EarthLink Network initiated a series of partnerships with such
EarthLink Network's most effective alliance was finalized in early 1998, when Sprint Corporation agreed to help create a single, unified Internet service, eventually investing a reported $1 billion. EarthLink Network also continued to increase subscriber numbers by becoming the default Internet software for iMac, Packard Bell, and NEC Ready computers. By December 1998 EarthLink Network had signed its one millionth subscriber.
MindSpring and EarthLink Network each developed a deeply loyal customer base, and in 2000 the two companies merged, taking the name EarthLink and creating the second largest ISP at the time, with more than 3 million subscribers nationwide. Based in Atlanta and traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange, the new company offered an array of software upgrades, including improved parental controls, child-friendly Web browsers, updated security tools, and faster connectivity. EarthLink also began introducing such premium services as music subscription and voicemail.
Since its founding EarthLink has often been recognized for quality of service. In 2004 the company earned highest honors for both high-speed and dial-up Internet services in J. D. Power and Associates' ISP Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. EarthLink has also been committed to reducing operating costs, and as of June 2005 the company was debt free. For the first quarter of 2005 EarthLink reported a net increase of 13,000 subscribers across all services for a total of 5.4 million customers and a quarterly profit of $33.3 million.
J. Lummis McGinnis, Atlanta
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