ISP, set-top firm in Net access deal

WebSurfer and Sprynet announce a strategic partnership to deliver Internet access to customers via the WebSurfer TV set-top box.

Sprynet said today it has formed a partnership with television set-top box manufacturer WebSurfer, the ISP's latest attempt to add new services to attract and maintain subscribers.

Under the deal, Sprynet customers will be able to use the set-top boxes to access basic Net services such as email and Web browsing, as well as to develop Web sites and play games on the Internet. A division of CompuServe, Sprynet was launched nearly two years ago after it became obvious that the Net was becoming the preferred way to access online services. It has 325,000 subscribers, according to a spokeswoman.

But after America Online and CompuServe in early September announced plans to merge, it became unclear exactly what Sprynet's future would be. Donna Rassmussen, a spokeswoman for Sprynet, said the ISP would continue operating under its current name and with no disruption of its services. The deal is expected to be completed early next month following a shareholders' meeting.

Recently, Sprynet rolled out wireless email capabilities, an online service for backing up data on hard drives, and a package for small businesses that allows them to establish email and Web accounts simply. Rassmussen said today's announcement with Websurfer is just the latest attempt to add new features to its services.

"For Sprynet, it means being able to service additional customers [and] make the Internet easier to use," said Rassmussen. "It is one of a series of products and services released to expand the scope of products and services available."