Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What EarthLink Didn't Say...

..in announcing a cut of 40 percent of its current workforce, a tactical move, was what it intends to do about a business strategy with no focus. And that was what EarthLink remains mum about. Helio and municipal Wi-Fi are bleeding cash; broadband is slowing and dial-up is dying.

One thing EarthLink did say is that gross subscriber additions will decelerate in 2008, in part because EarthLink will stop marketing to customer segments it believes likely to churn.

There's something else. The company expects fewer migrations from narrowband to broadband. Why? Because, industrywide, the pool of people using narrowband who want to upgrade to broadband is nearing exhaustion. And the number who see little value in owning and using PCs obviously won't be candidates for narrowband or broadband access.

We rapidly are approaching the point where the "problem" of broadband adoption is no longer a "problem" of access, but a problem of "demand." There just aren't that many more people who want broadband and can't get it. Which means the marketing battler will refocus, as it always does in saturated markets, on upselling more services and features and stealing market share from somebody else.

All things being equal, a facilities-based access platform typically beats a leased-access platform. But there's one more essential ingredient. There have to be customers. In the fixed broadband access market, we are running out of customers.

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