EchoStar Loosens StarBand Tie

Dish Network subscribers and retailers who want StarBand high-speed Internet services will no longer be able to purchase the service through EchoStar Communications Corp.

A notice on EchoStar's Website directs potential Web customers directly to the McLean, Va.-based StarBand Communications Corp.

StarBand plans to market its service, which has about 40,000 subscribers so far, directly to dealers and launched a new marketing program.

EchoStar's move comes less than a year after investing in the company.

"Our investment in StarBand is an investment in the future of our customers," EchoStar Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen said at the time. "StarBand is a true national solution for consumers seeking high-speed Internet and satellite TV, all on a single dish and at one price."

That one price isn't cheap at about $70 per months plus a significant hardware cost and a conventional upstream Internet connection.

In Congressional hearings, Ergen and other satellite executives said DBS Internet rollout was proceeding too slowly, and that the proposed EchoStar-DirecTV merger would be the fastest way too promote such services.

EchoStar is maintaining its investment in StarBand.