By signing multi-year deals with Akamai Technologies, iBeam Broadcasting and Microcast, Excite@Home has expanded the commercial use of its backbone network and used its base of 1.5 million high-speed, or "broadband," Internet customers to attract new income.
Akamai, iBeam and Microcast will pay Excite@Home to directly access its network and co-locate Internet caching servers in two new Excite@Home hosting centers. Executives expect the deals to begin generating revenue during the third quarter of the year when iBeam becomes the first content distributor to connect to the network.
The deals not only mark a new strategy for Excite@Home, but also further indicate the company's newfound willingness to open its network to third-party Internet companies.
The content distribution companies aim to speed the download of Web sites and so-called streaming media such as audio and video clips by storing Internet content in servers that are distributed across the country and are physically closer to Web surfers than previous centralized schemes.
By directly connecting to a high-speed Internet network such as Excite@Home's, the content distributors will be able to deliver content specifically created for broadband connections.
The pacts were struck with the company's commercial division, Excite@Home Business Solutions, which currently accounts for about 20 percent of total revenues.
Mark O'Leary, senior vice president for the commercial division, said the company is in negotiations with other content distribution companies such as Digital Island, Aderro, Mirror Image Internet and Edgix, among others. O'Leary expects to finalize additional similar deals by the third quarter.
Excite@Home and controlling shareholder AT&T have said they intend to offer wholesale commercial network access to competing Internet service providers (ISP) after Excite@Home's exclusive agreements with its cable operator partners begin to expire in June 2002.
A massive public policy debate about whether Excite@Home and other cable modem services had the right to exclusive access to cable operators' networks raged for much of last year, but simmered after Ma Bell announced it planned to allow MindSpring Enterprises to access its network and America Online merged with cable giant Time Warner.