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EarthLink Inc is increasing the number of companies supplying it with dialup connectivity, possibly as a contingency against financially troubled networks going dark. Palatine, Illinois-based StarNet Inc yesterday announced it is to provide wholesale dialup to EarthLink Inc from over 100 locations in the US and Canada.

StarNet operates banks of modems under the MegaPOP brand and already counts the likes of Microsoft Corp's MSN and United Online Inc as wholesale dialup customers. The privately held firm, which competes against the likes of WorldCom Inc's UUNet and Level 3 Communications Inc, says it has recently seen more customer traction.

"UUNet is carrying 80% of internet traffic... but people are making contingency plans," StarNet's manager of dialup sales Michael Alonzo said. "It's tough to track exactly how much business is coming from UUNet's network, but we're getting calls from ISPs all over the country looking for contingency plans."

UUNet's owner, WorldCom Inc, is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while it restructures following one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in history. Last week, interim CEO John Sidgmore said he would hand over the position to a successor some time before the end of the year.

StarNet believes the financial difficulties facing publicly owned networks is benefiting its own business. It says some Qwest Communications International Inc customers are also buying StarNet capacity to provide extra redundancy for their dialup services. StarNet has 2,900 access numbers in about 100 facilities covering the majority of the US.

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