Under the deal, announced Wednesday, Charter will market its cable Internet service with MSN to its 6.7 million subscribers in 40 states.
While MSN also provides Internet access, its goal is to grow the "bring-your-own-access" program itwith MSN 8 in October. America Online offers a similar program to provide AOL content and services to those who get their Internet access elsewhere.
With MSN 8, Microsoft began charging $9.95 per month for people who have their own Net access. Prior to that, the service was free to those who paid elsewhere for Internet service.
Microsoft described the Charter deal as a sign of things to come in its marketing strategy.
"The direction (Microsoft is) going is to sell the (MSN) software piece as a standalone rather than the software piece bundled with access," a representative said.
MSN already has a co-branded Web portal site with Charter, which in September 2001. That made the portal the default home page for Charter subscribers, under a revenue-sharing deal with MSN, according to Microsoft.
Charter, founded in 1993 to provide cable television access, employs 16,700 people and is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo. Its chairman is Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen.
Allen's company has encountered some legal and financial turbulence in recent weeks. Since last month, it has faced layoffs, a corporate restructuring and compliance program, a federal grand jury investigation, re-audits of its earnings since 2000, the firing of its chief operating officer and chief financial officer, and a cut in its debt rating by Standard & Poor's.
The grand jury investigation centers on Charter's methods for accounting for subscribers.
Charter declined to comment on the newly announced Microsoft deal.