Denver firm buys into ClarkNet Columbia Internet service to expand

Communications

October 21, 1997|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF

Verio Inc., a national Internet services provider for small- and mid-size business and institutional customers, has acquired a majority interest in Columbia-based Clark Internet Services Inc.

Denver-based Verio bought a 51 percent interest in Clark for an undisclosed amount.

The move should dramatically improve service for Clark Internet, known as ClarkNet, by enabling it to tap into the much larger Verio's resources, said Andrew E. Clark, ClarkNet's chief executive officer.

"We look at this transaction as enabling ClarkNet to expand our level and quality of service through the national infrastructure that Verio brings," Clark said.

Specifically, he said, Clark-Net's relationship with Verio will enable it to tap into much faster Internet service, 24-hour customer service, and more efficient billing and purchasing because of economies of scale.

None of the 60 jobs at ClarkNet will be affected, Clark said, and it will remain under local management for now, operating as Clark- Net/Verio.

"The fantastic part of this is, the management team and employees at the network stay in place, so there's not a change in direction here at ClarkNet," Clark said.

Verio, founded last year, has received $250 million in equity and debt financing to build a national network by combining its high-speed service with local and regional Internet providers.

The company intends to go public by mid-1998, said Steven Silvers, a Verio spokesman.

Silvers called the Clark- Net link vital to Verio's presence in the Baltimore-Washington region and praised the Columbia company's interactive, database-driven Web sites. Verio now serves 28 of the 50 top markets, he said.

"We've done so so by acquiring and strengthening well-established Internet providers that have a good base of customers," Silvers said. "And ClarkNet's already very well-known and established in that region."

ClarkNet, which has tripled its staff in the past year, was founded by Jamie Clark, a deaf Columbia man who was honored this year as Maryland Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration's Baltimore District Office.

Clark got involved with the Internet in 1992, when he was working on a project for a course at the Johns Hopkins University. He researched the requirements to set up a windowing interface -- a type of graphics program -- on the Internet, and discovered that no provider offered one.

Clark's subsequent experiences led him to believe that graphics was not the only thing missing. Frustrated with the level of Internet service and options being offered, he decided to set up his own company.

Backed by a $35,000 loan from Columbia Bank, Clark set up shop in a barn on his father's dairy farm and signed up his first customer April 30, 1993.

ClarkNet also has launched KidzNet, an Internet service that controls access to adult-oriented Internet sites and news groups, bulletin boards and chat rooms.

Like many other Internet service providers, ClarkNet has its problems with capacity, faulty connections and computer errors. But the company answers every complaint it receives, officials say.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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