Earthlink Review

Only price makes it less than perfect
For the past three years, CNET has awarded Earthlink its Editor's Choice Award, giving it the only five-star rating of all the ISP's it reviewed. JD Powers and Associates also rated Earthlink as number one for consumer satisfaction in 2002. In addition, Internet pioneer Sky Daton's brainchild has received Mobile Computing's "First Class" Award, Inter@ctive Week's "Top Internet Service Provider" Award, and PC World's Best ISP Award.

Lessons learned
So, even if I can't say I was a satisfied customer, I am ready to bury the hatchet and forgive Earthlink for its rapscallion behavior during the Wild West days of the World Wide Web. My own adventure with Earthlink did teach me a lesson that I must confess I still have not entirely learned. The lesson being that before engaging any subscription service on the net, make sure you know where the exit is.

Living in a rural area that until very recently sported more cows than cell phones, we were behind the techno curve. Shortly after their start-up in 1994, Earthlink became the first to offer dial-up in our area with local access. I signed up immediately, but found it to be overburdened and at times impossible to connect. When a local provider came on line, I decided to quit Earthlink, and therein laid the rub. I found that I could not rid myself of their services. or at the least the bill for such. I spent hours attempting to find a way to cancel my account. In pull-down windows of requested services, canceling was not an option. I forget the exact unfolding of events, but after several calls, emails, even letters, they continued which they accessed with my ATM number, until finally I was forced to shut down my bank account.

Several months later I finally heard back from them in the form of a mailed invoice, which I of course returned unpaid. After that I never heard from them again, but for all I know on some computer at Earthlink central in Atlanta, I now have a bill that is approaching four digits. It's a lesson that I still haven't learned to the fullest, as showing up on my present bank statement are several miscellaneous charges of between $3 and $29 for services that I don't remember buying, and have no way of tracking, as the line items on the statement bear no relation to whatever service I accidentally purchased or chose to sample for free.

Five million served and counting
Earthlink now is of course no longer a startup but a respected communications giant with an ethical image to uphold. The number three ISP in the country behind AOL and MSN, I suspect that they are the most profitable, because unlike the other two, who spent gazillions trying to grab the whole enchilada at the get-go, Earthlink has grown incrementally.