ISP EarthLink says it has filed a suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, in which it alleges that Charter has been stealing customers by lying about the availability of EarthLink services. EarthLink alleges that Charter has told EarthLink customers such falsehoods as EarthLink is out of business, that Charter has “taken over” EarthLink and that EarthLink services aren’t available in the customer’s area.
EarthLink says it has lost customers due to these alleged practices, which it discovered via customer complaints. Charter has not publicly commented on the allegations.
There is a relationship between the two companies. EarthLink reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable in 2000 that enabled the ISP to offer its branded services over Time Warner’s network. When Charter purchased Time Warner in 2016 (see "Done Deal: Charter Closes on TWC, BHN"), that practice continued. EarthLink asserts that it has paid Time Warner and, subsequently, Charter more than $150 million in the last five years to use the Time Warner/Charter network and for handling billing and service issues.
“Charter is engaged in a campaign of deception with the purpose of misleading consumers about their internet options. 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,” asserted Damien Marshall, partner at King & Spalding and counsel to EarthLink. “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.”
EarthLink's consumer ISP business is owned by Trive Capital, a Dallas-based private equity firm. Trive purchased it from Windstream in January of last year, after Windstream had merged with EarthLink in 2017 (see "Windstream sells EarthLink ISP").