Meanwhile, the company reported a wider loss of $65.7 million, or 43 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with a loss of nearly $60.7 million, or 41 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.
Revenue rose to $353.7 million in the first quarter, compared with $333.4 million for the same period a year earlier.
A rise in broadband revenue helped drive that growth, climbing 51 percent to $81.4 million in the quarter. Broadband now accounts for 23 percent of the company's total revenue. But revenue from dial-up customers, which accounts for 72 percent of total revenue, shrank 3.5 percent in the first quarter to $253.5 million.
Excluding costs associated with exiting facilities and acquisitions, the company posted a pro forma profit of nearly $1.5 million, or 1 cent a share, compared with a loss of nearly $19 million, or 13 cents a share, a year ago.
Analysts expected the company to report a profit of 1 cent a share, according to First Call.
"EarthLink began 2003 the same way it ended 2002--hitting or exceeding our financial targets and growing our subscriber base while enhancing our online experience with new products and services," Garry Betty, EarthLink's chief executive, said in a statement.
The company's bottom line largely got a boost from lower telecommunications costs per subscriber, the company said.
Paying subscribers, meanwhile, rose 2.9 percent to 5 million in the quarter, compared with year-ago figures. The company added 112,000 broadband customers, raising that customer segment to 891,000. But dial-up customers declined 5.1 percent to 4 million subscribers.
EarthLink, as well as Microsoft's MSN Internet service and America Online, have all seen a, as subscribers shift to high-speed Internet access or budget dial-up services.
EarthLink's shares rose 25 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $6.04 in midday trading.