The easy days are over for Internet service providers, the outfits that provide businesses and individuals with links to the online world. Until recently ISPs needed only enough money to rent phone and cable TV lines or install dedicated high-speed cables to tap into a seemingly endless pool of new customers.

But as growing numbers of ISPs have jumped into the business, and more and more people have become connected to the Internet, competition has heated up. ISPs have begun to realize that they must raid each other’s customers if they want to continue to expand.

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