Small but spunky, EarthLink offers a lot to its High Speed Internet customers. With its DSL package, you get Web site-building tools, a photo and music center, eight e-mail addresses with Web site space for each, and a range of free security software, including antivirus software and a firewall. Free, 24-hour telephone support ensures that all your questions get answered. You'll need to pay extra for EarthLink's Home Networking service, Voice over IP (VoIP), and other goodies, and EarthLink's bandwidth speed is much slower than that of its competitors. But if you want a wide range of features from a security-minded provider, EarthLink may be a good choice for you.DSL pricing info
|Price||Intro rate: $19.95/month for six months
After six months: $39.95/month for 1.5Mbps service, $44.95/month for 3Mbps service
|Activation fee||Free (limited-time offer); regularly $99|
|Equipment fee||Free (limited-time offer); regularly $200|
|Contract length||12 months|
|Early termination fee||$149.95|
|Support||24 hours a day, 7 days a week|
EarthLink High Speed Internet includes nationwide cable, DSL, and satellite service as well as limited wireless service. We tested EarthLink's high-speed DSL, an increasingly popular choice for e-mail and Web surfing. Since EarthLink doesn't provide DSL service directly (it acts as a reseller), you'll need to call your local phone company to get it to provision your line for DSL. This can take a few days. Once your line is ready, you can use EarthLink's self-installation kit to set up DSL service. Printed documents within the kit include a quick-start guide, a printed user guide, and a copy of your service agreement. The hardware in the kit includes an EarthLink CD, a DSL Broadmax UHP modem, an AC adapter, telephone and Ethernet cables, a microfilter, a Y-adapter (in case you need to plug another analog device into your phone jack), and a telephone-line swapper. If you have more than one phone jack in your residence, you will need to buy additional single-line microfilters or dual-line microfilters (for a two-line phone) to screen out interference from the DSL signal. If you need a router to network several computers, you must purchase that separately. If you want to use a server, EarthLink's dynamic IP addresses, while secure, can complicate your server installation.
Once you've installed the UHP modem, you configure it online. Then you install the software from the CD. We found the whole hardware and software installation process straightforward and fairly painless, and we finished within a few hours.
EarthLink is not the largest, fastest, or cheapest ISP, and its 5 million subscribers nationwide don't approach AOL's 20 million. That said, EarthLink subscribers receive excellent technical-support service and many popular features not available from smaller, locally owned ISPs.