EarthLink Tweaks Wi-Fi Business, Leaves Helio Alone For Now

Internet service provider EarthLink won’t take on ambitious new municipal wi-fi projects, chief executive Rolla Huff said today on a conference call with investors. EarthLink will continue to pursue muni wi-fi contracts, but only those that shield the company from extensive risk and/or costs, Huff said. Yesterday, the company announced a massive restructuring, saying it would lay off 900 employees and close regional offices.

The company had no update on its cash-burning “virtual” wireless carrier, Helio. Huff referred investors to EarthLink’s Q2 conference call, when he said the company would continue funding Helio, a joint venture with Korea’s SK Telecom, but on a tighter leash.

Huff took over in June with a primary goal of refocusing EarthLink’s business to generate cash. Growth is slowing, however, for EarthLink’s old, profitable businesses — selling broadband and dial-up Internet access — and new growth areas like muni wi-fi and Helio are expensive and risky.