Unplugged provider responds with lawsuit

The Associated Press
Thursday February 15, 2001



SAN JOSE — An Internet service provider whose customers lost high-speed access last week when Covad Communications Inc. cut the connection fired back Wednesday by suing Covad. 

Covad mainly sells high-speed digital subscriber lines to Internet service providers, which in turn sell them to businesses and residential users.  

Last week, Covad unplugged two service providers, DSLnetworks and Internet Express, for not paying millions of dollars of bills. 

The move left thousands of customers nationwide without DSL access. 

In its lawsuit, filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, DSLnetworks contends Covad has been calling, faxing and e-mailing many of its 3,500 affected customers and asking them to sign up for DSL service directly with Covad.  

In some cases, top Covad executives personally have been making the calls, said Dan Melmed, director of marketing at San Francisco-based DSLnetworks. 

That violates nondisclosure clauses in the customers’ service agreements, and also is “indicative of what Covad’s intentions were, which is to really take our customers away from us and take them directly,” Melmed said. 

The lawsuit asks that Covad be ordered to stop contacting DSLnetworks’ customers. 

Covad spokeswoman Suluh Lukoskie said the Santa Clara-based company had not been served with the lawsuit and would not comment. 

Covad also has been reaching out to customers of Internet Express, but that is allowed under an agreement the companies signed last year, said Barry Diamond, chief Executive of Internet Express.  

Still, he expects to join in a class-action lawsuit with other ISPs against Covad. 

Both Internet Express and DSLnetworks pointed out that they had set up payment plans with Covad when the service was cut off, and that their deals with other DSL providers still are going strong. 

DSL technology vastly increases the data capacity of ordinary copper telephone wires.  

But Covad and competing DSL companies have been stung by their complicated partnerships with Internet service providers, service disruptions and installation delays in many areas. 

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