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EarthLink President and Chief Executive Charles “Garry” Betty died Tuesday because of complications of cancer, the company said Wednesday.

Betty, who was 49, took a leave of absence in November after being diagnosed with “a serious form of cancer.” He joined the company in 1996. Mike Lunsford, who was vice president of EarthLink’s (nasdaq: ELNK – news – people ) voice and access group, will continue as interim CEO.

“He was a pillar of stability for his many friends and thousands of EarthLink employees,” EarthLink founder and Helio Chief Executive Sky Dayton wrote in a tribute posted to a Betty memorial site Wednesday. “I was the guy that built the plane, and he was the pilot, each of us complementing one another’s particular skill,” Dayton said.

According to Dayton’s post, Betty was also an avid golfer, fisherman and science-fiction reader, and he enjoyed crossword puzzles. Before joining EarthLink, he was president and CEO of Digital Communications Associates and had previously worked for IBM (nyse: IBM – news – people ).

Betty joined EarthLink in the heyday of dial-up Internet access, competing with companies like AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy. He grew the company from a small regional, Internet service provider to one of the largest nationwide, with more than 5 million subscribers and $1.29 billion in 2005 revenue.

Today, the company sells dial-up Internet access, high-speed access over digital subscriber lines, satellite Internet access, and through a deal with Time Warner (nyse: TWX – news – people ), cable Internet service. Its main competitors are large telecommunications and cable companies, including AT&T (nyse: T – news – people ), Verizon Communications (nyse: VZ – news – people ) and Comcast (nasdaq: CMCSA – news – people ).

EarthLink sells Internet-based phone service in 12 U.S. cities and, in a joint venture with South Korea’s SK Telecom, co-owns Helio, a virtual wireless phone service that operates on Sprint Nextel’s (nyse: S – news – people ) network.

The company has also taken a leading role in building metropolitan Wi-Fi networks, including New Orleans and Philadelphia, and has submitted a proposal with Google (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people ) to build a network in San Francisco. In November, Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT – news – people ) also said it will go after the metro Wi-Fi market, sponsoring a network in Portland, Ore. (See: ” Microsoft Catches Wi-Fi Fever.”)

*This article is taken from http://www.forbes.com

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