Earthlink Sues Charter for Claiming It’s Out of Business
September 10, 2020 Topic: Technology Region: Americas Blog Brand: Techland Tags: EarthlinkCharterLawsuitInternet Service ProviderCable

Earthlink Sues Charter for Claiming It’s Out of Business

The dispute revolves around an old agreement from 2000.

EarthLink is an Internet service provider, which has been around long enough that it once competed directly with AOL. And while EarthLink has been sold a couple of times over the last few years, including by Windstream Holdings, Inc. in 2017 and Trive Capital in 2019, the company very much remains in business.

The company’s continuing viability is at the crux of an unusual lawsuit filed this week, by EarthLink, against Charter Communications, the cable giant and parent company of Spectrum.

EarthLink announced in a press release Thursday that it has filed suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Charter, “for engaging in a scheme to mislead EarthLink service subscribers to switch internet providers. EarthLink has brought forward this action to seek damages sustained as a result of Charter’s wrongdoing.”

EarthLink, in the suit, alleges that Charter has implied to its customers that EarthLink has gone out of business, that it has been taken over by Charter, and that EarthLink’s service is not available in markets where it is available.

“These false statements,” EarthLink said in the announcement, “have reduced connectivity options for customers when they need it most, damaged EarthLink’s reputation and brand, and directly resulted in lost customers.

The dispute, oddly enough, stems from the ill-fated AOL Time Warner merger in 2000. Time Warner Cable, which is now part of Charter/Spectrum, was part of the combined AOL Time Warner at the time, and the sides reached an agreement in which EarthLink was allowed to sell its high-speed data service over Time Warner’s network.

Per FierceTelecom, the sides also agreed at the time to not target each other’s customers, and that after EarthLink was sold in 2017, Charter terminated the agreement between the parties, leading to a “transition period.” EarthLink is claiming that Charter has not complied with that agreement.

“Charter is engaged in a campaign of deception with the purpose of misleading consumers about their internet options,” Damien Marshall, EarthLink’s lawyer in the matter, said in the press release.

“Charter has spread false rumors about the financial health of EarthLink in order to grow its customer base and eliminate competition, ultimately enabling Charter to increase prices in the future. Charter’s efforts have reduced service accessibility and increased consumer costs during the midst of a global pandemic, when the budgets of middle-class families are already being stretched to their limits. Access to affordable, reliable and high-speed internet is an economic lifeline for millions of Americans who are working or learning from home and are unable to access traditional office spaces or classrooms.”

BroadbandNow published a side-by-side comparison of the different services offered by EarthLink and Spectrum.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters