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A Big Deal For a Little Internet Provider

My inbox had a surprise this morning--a notice from the CEO of my Internet provider, announcing that Best Buy had acquired the company.

That was upsetting news to me, and to many other customers of Speakeasy Network, a Seattle-based firm that has carved out a niche for itself among many pickier users of the Internet.

I went with Speakeasy back in 1999 because I'd heard way too many horror stories about Verizon's DSL, in distinct contrast to Speakeasy's reputation. I've remained their customer since--even though they charge $10 more a month than most competitors--because their connection almost never drops. When I have needed to call for help, the tech-support people have known what they're talking about, and they've stayed out of my hair otherwise. Unlike a lot of other providers, Speakeasy doesn't impose nonsensical, control-freak usage restrictions. Speakeasy has no problem with you sharing your connection with a neighbor and can even bill your neighbor directly and cut your bill accordingly.

Basically, Speakeasy's been one of a tragically small number of mom-and-pop ISPs that haven't been ruined by growth (well, aside from the lame performance of their site's Web-mail interface.) But now it's the property of the blue shirts at Best Buy, who plan to use it to expand their portfolio of business services.

In the e-mail I got this morning, Speakeasy CEO Bruce Chatterly pledged that "All aspects of your service will continue to be managed by Speakeasy and the excellent service and support you expect will continue uninterrupted." I hope he's right. But I can understand why other customers are nervous--see, for instance, tech scribe's Glenn Fleishman 's anxious posting today, as well as the comments at and Slashdot.

Should I be nervous too?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 27, 2007; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  Telecom  
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