January 3, 2007 8:22 AM PST

EarthLink CEO Garry Betty dies at 49

EarthLink CEO Garry Betty, one of the nation's most visible advocates of municipal Wi-Fi, died on Tuesday from complications related to cancer, the company announced Wednesday.

"Garry was at once the general you wanted at your side in battle and the friend you wanted to celebrate with when the war was won," Sky Dayton, EarthLink founder and CEO of mobile phone operator Helio, said in a statement.

As regulatory changes prompted EarthLink to look for new ways to deliver its broadband service, Betty crusaded to bring San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Anaheim, Calif. Many of those networks were launched in 2006.

Betty, who was 49, had been diagnosed with cancer and announced he would take a medical leave of absence in November. Mike Lunsford, an EarthLink executive vice president, has been serving as interim CEO since then and will continue to do so, the company said.

Before joining Earthlink in 1996, Betty was CEO of data communications specialist Digital Communications Associates and, at the time, was the youngest CEO of a New York Stock Exchange-listed company, EarthLink noted. A Georgia Institute of Technology alumnus, Betty was named Young Alumnus of the Year in 1993 and inducted into the Georgia Technology Hall of Fame in 2005.

He is survived by his wife and family.

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