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@Home breaks 2 million mark

The nation's largest high-speed Internet service says it has topped 2 million subscribers, a number that is closing fast on the largest dial-up ISPs.

Excite@Home, the nation's largest high-speed Internet service, said today that it has topped 2 million subscribers, a number that is closing fast on the largest dial-up ISPs.

As previously reported, the company has added customers quickly in the past year, having reached 1 million subscribers last December. Excite@Home began the year with 1.15 million customers.

High-speed, or broadband, Internet connections such as cable modems and digital subscriber lines (DSL) are growing in popularity among consumers for the faster downloads they enable. Potentially high profit margins make broadband services attractive offerings for large phone companies and major cable operators, such as AT&T, which controls Excite@Home.

Because the market is becoming increasingly crowded, Excite@Home and others are racing to sign up customers first in hopes of securing their loyalty.

As such, Excite@Home announced a new plan to forsake profitability for a year in an effort to grow rapidly. The company told Wall Street in April that it plans to increase its subscriber base to 3 million by the end of the year, a figure that analysts will be watching closely.

The company also said it expects to have 6 million customers by the end of 2001 and 10 million by 2002. Previously, Excite@Home had expected to have 2.5 million customers by the end of this year.

Executives continue to believe the company will reach 3 million customers by the end of December, which is less than five months away. That number is not expected to include subscribers gained via Excite Chello, the international joint venture that Excite@Home helped create last month. Including Chello subscribers, Excite@Home expects to significantly exceed the 3 million mark, a spokesman said.

Similarly, Road Runner, a cable-modem service owned by Time Warner and AT&T, today announced that it has topped 1 million customers. Road Runner has doubled its customer base since January, an even faster rate than Excite@Home. The company plans to soon offer a streamlined installation and registration process in hopes of adding customers more quickly.

By comparison, Microsoft's Internet service, MSN, has more than 3 million subscribers, while EarthLink Network has 3.5 million customers. NetZero, the nation's largest free ISP, has more than 5 million registered users.

America Online, the world's largest Internet provider, is approaching 25 million customers and has plans for high-speed Net access services of its own.