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DSL Amidst Phone Wars 139

DrewCapu writes "The SF Chronicle has an article which talks about the battles between SBC and AT&T & MCI over supposed unfair practices concerning DSL and switching phone companies. All sides have their own spin on it. Can't we all just get along? Things have been heating up ever since SBC got closer to offering LD in CA."
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DSL Amidst Phone Wars

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  • by Akardam ( 186995 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:00AM (#4955678)
    I live in Alameda (near SF), and I can tell you that the article is not stretching the truth at ALL. I personally have DSL thru a small local ISP who partners with Covad, but when I moved to my new apartment, I still had to get a landline from SBC (as they've apparently cut off the likes of Covad from getting dry pairs with no phone account associated for DSL). More on topic, several of my customers have switched to other local carriers, and either had to give up DSL (for cable, which in Alameda is run by the very excellent Alameda Power & Telecom, but I digress), or keep one SBC line.

    I guess having AT&T and MCI on "our" side is a good thing, though with the Yahoo!/SBC DSL crap SBC is giving out now, I don't know why anyone would want to stay with 'em.
    • Why couldn't _you_ get a dry pair from your apartment to Covad's facility?
    • If I recall, the US is the only place that still has this. What if you're someone whose main phone is a cell phone, why should one have to get a redundant land line just to simply get DSL, whether it be the main carrier or an alternative? DSL is expensive as it is (contract, connection, no dissatisfaction guarantee), but one must also pay for deposit, connection fee and service on a land line as well? This is the main reason cable has more customers: the price is lower, they don't charge connection fees, they don't make you sign a contract, they don't make you buy the modem or NIC (hell the NIC is yours to keep after service is terminated), and you sure as hell don't have to pay for simply having a signal line to connect on.

      SCB here in Memphis charges $50 a month for service. They make you buy the modem, they charge a connection fee, they require a contract. This on top of having to have a land line. All of a sudden this overpriced DSL now in reality costs $82, at the very least.

      I'll stick to my $30 a month cable connection.
      • It's all about Content Consumers v. Content Producers...DSL is more suited to people who are content producers...those who need a deciated 'pipe' in the ATM cloud. Cable modems with DOCSIS are made for people who are doing a lot of content consuming; great for Joe Sixpack and family, but for 'running your own server,' type of crowd, DSL is a better choice than Cable.

        Just an overworked HSD installer's thoughts...

      • I agree with you in sentiment.

        Here in San Francisco at mi casa, if you want high speed internet for any kind of reasonable price, you have to get DSL.

        If you get DSL, SBC will receive $40 US per month. When DSL was getting started, it was perceived that Pacbell (now SBC) would monopolize it rapidly, b/c they own all the lines. So, they HAVE to allow any ISP to use the line for DSL, provided SBC receives $40/month.

        Now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that SBC will take in 80% of all revenue associated with high speed internet here. No matter who the ISP is.

        What is worse, you can't get rid of the land line. SBC claims the $40/month is only supplemental to phone service (which is, ironically, less expensive for line charges than DSL). So unless you spend at least $25 or so per month for minimal phone service, and $40 for the DSL line, you can't get a line for DSL. Add another $10 for minimal PPPoE ISP service, and you are pretty close to an $80 monthly bill.

        Now, you might think cable is cheaper, but the AT&T cable internet offered in town is between $40 and $50 per month. If you don't pay for cable also, it costs $60/month (they cannot turn off basic cable if you get cable high speed internet - so you pay for minimal cable whether you want it or not).

        My house can't even get the cable. I am thinking seriously about colluding with my neighbors to have 4-5 houses using my DSL line.

        This is all a deck of cards that should come crashing down mightily if someone gets set up to offer wireless internet in town in any sort of reasonable fashion.
        • Here here! I'm on dialup, looking at dsl, and a bit flustered to find that it seems cheaper everywhere else. SF "broadband" offerings kinda suck despite the tech industry we have here. IIRC JWZ has volunteered DNA's roof for an antenna. Have you heard of any local efforts beyond SFBWUG (sic) to implement a city-wide wireless network? Imagine SF with repeater antennas every three blocks. Perhaps an ISP could implement "viral" connectivity -- either pay or freeload and repeat (i.e. extend the coverage)?
      • You shouldn't, and I'm piss off about paying for a land line that I never use. I pay $40/month for my cell phone, with free long distance and (US, where there is service) roaming. I then pay $30/month for a measured line land line phone (Pay per minute, a normal unlimited local calls line would be $45/month) plus $50/month for my 720k DSL line (I could go to the slower 256k DSL and save $10/month).

        I'm mad, I wrote the local PUC and they said "We are sorry, but we have no interest in helping you". I'm waiting for something else to come along that will work.

    • Yep.
      I have SBC DSL here in Santa Rosa, 60 miles north of SF.

      I like them, MUCH quicker phone support than the local ISP I used to have. Their business practices are nowhere nearly as sleazy as MCI who lie like dogs, try to switch you without permission and play games with their rates.

      I would happily allow a total monopoly over DSL, wireless and landline as long as everything works and is a reasonable price. All I care about is good uptime connectivity at a decent price and SBC provides it, they can screw the living daylights out of everyone else as long as *I* can logon at 1.5 mbps :-)
    • most of the problems in telecoms come from the local loop monopolies and the regulations that try to get around those monopolies.

      The washington think-tank CATO [] held a conference on 11/14 called "Telecom and Broadband Policy After the Market Meltdown" where they invited industry analysts to debate the effectiveness of industry and government to solve the complete fuck-up that is home broadband in our time.

      The American telecommunications sector went into a freefall in 2002. Telecom stocks tanked as once proud industry giants and smaller carriers alike were financially decimated. Numerous providers were forced to declare bankruptcy. And the reverberations were felt well beyond the boundaries of the telecom sector as upstream and downstream industries took a hit as well.

      What were the causes of this market meltdown? Was it driven purely by misguided corporate decisionmaking and bad business models, or is public policy more to blame? The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was supposed to rejuvenate this sector by encouraging increased competition, innovation and investment, but most industry watchers have been dissatisfied with the sluggish pace of change.

      here's the link [] to the page, scroll down for the four-part, two-day real-video webcasts. put yourself in the know.
    • My own personal SF Bay Area DSL horror story:

      I went with Earthlink, who (in my area) gets their DSL service through Covad.

      I had fine service for a long time. Then, one day, it stopped working. Completely. Dead line.

      After many calls in to Earthlink, I finally got them to escalate it to the network level (and then, to Covad). I get a phone message saying "my problem has been fixed." It isn't fixed. It hasn't changed at all. Repeat process.

      Eventually I am told that my line tests to the same levels it was at when Covad first turned it up. In other words, there's nothing wrong. Earthlink would not roll a truck to see what was wrong -- it wasn't worth the expense to them. When I asked what I should do -- "Do I cancel my Earthlink and get cable?" -- they said that, yes, that was an option, or I could investigate their satellite service. BTW, because I had been a customer for so long (over a year), there would "of course" be no cancellation charge on my "service."

      I was about to go completely fscking ballistic when one guy at the Earthlink NOC made a little suggestion. I decided to take his advice.

      I took my DSL modem out to my demarc box in the side yard with an extension cord and a "red box" cable (basically, a phone cable with the red and green pair stripped and attached to alligator clips). I plugged the modem into each pair at the box and cycled the power, until I got a circuit that looped up. Sure enough, my DSL line was, in fact, active.

      What was the trouble? The wires had been cut.

      I'm not kidding here -- the ends of the red and green wires were absolutely clean, and they were about an inch shorter than the other wires in the cable. It was quite plain that somebody had snipped them. I pulled out a wire tool, stripped the ends, tied them down to the pair I traced back to my DSL jack, went back into the house, and plugged in the DSL. Voila! It looped up right away. I "dialed out" with my PPPoE username/password, and I was online again at full speed, as if nothing had ever happened.

      Thinking about this, I realized that my DSL outage had coincided with my new upstairs neighbors moving in. They would have ordered new phones with SBC Pac Bell. A little too much of a fscking coincidence for my likes.

      I asked a few people about it, and a couple of them told me they'd heard the same thing: SBC techs don't like seeing Covad lines in the field, and they're fond of disabling them -- apparently, to achieve the same results I got (Covad, Earthlink, or whomever else telling the customer that they'd have to switch service.)

      Of course, this is all hearsay (from me to you).
    • oh and like a previous poster said, we here in Japan have total phone competition. Everybody owns the line to their house. Of course that means you had to buy it, but it then is yours, forever. You can sell it on the open market to whoever you want. I don't have to buy from the Telco either, just get a clean on from the want ads. Then sign up for local, long distance, ADSL etc. as for the historical versus new cost of running wires, how about new subdivisions? they are built and wired all the time. Here in the kansai region of Japan we the electric co. strung up fiber on its poles all over, so we have fiber outside the house, just pay installation ($300) and about $50 month for 100mbps. Or choose from about 20 DSL providers, (NTT, KDDI, Sony, the two railway companys that run fibre backbones down beside their tracks,) oh, and one more thing, YahooBB does IP phone for free to other Yahoo subcribers, all Japan for \7/3min. or \2.5/min. to the US.
  • Control? Greed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phalse phace ( 454635 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:07AM (#4955698)
    "If AT&T (or MCI) wanted to provide their new dial-tone customer with DSL, they could do so," said (SBC) spokesman John Britton. "In fact, one would think they would be eager to generate more revenue from the access line they just won over."

    Couldn't the same be said of SBC? I mean, if SBC continued to provide DSL service to those customers, then they too would "generate more revenue" than if they were to just hand it over to AT&T or MCI. Is it greed? Or do they just want to control our means of communication? They can't have it both ways.

    • Re:Control? Greed? (Score:2, Informative)

      by matastas ( 547484 )
      SBC didn't have a choice in giving AT&T/MCI/Bob's DSL access to their phone lines. If I 'member correctly, it was the toll for providing LD service to their captive local-phone audience (Telcomm Act of '96 - corrections, anybody?). They'd love it if folks had no choice but SBC products when picking telephony services, but that's not an option, according to Congress.

      In the meantime, they would love to grab DSL users and generate more revenue. They're losing their ass on phone services, and as DSL becomes more commoditized on the backend, they stand to make a fortune (Pronto is becomming a large success), provided they don't screw it up. However, they've got competition in the form of DLEC/CLEC providers like Covad offering DSL and phone services over their wire. So, they've got to be competitive. Which lowers our costs.

      To answer your question: all of the above. And they can't have it both ways 'cause the FCC and Congress told them so. Otherwise, they would.
  • The whole idea of requiring phone company A to allow phone company B to sell "service" over phone company A's lines is ludicrous. Just let them both run their own lines.
    • by Kevinv ( 21462 ) <kevin AT vanhaaren DOT net> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:35AM (#4955773) Homepage
      and of course the gov't subsidies most phone companies recieved (in direct payments and via grants of monopoly status) to run those lines doesn't entitle the tax payers that funded them to anything.
      • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:44AM (#4955805) Homepage
        > and of course the gov't subsidies most phone
        > companies recieved (in direct payments and via
        > grants of monopoly status) to run those lines
        > doesn't entitle the tax payers that funded them
        > to anything.

        Why should they receive either subsidies or protection of their monopolies?
        • Why should they receive either subsidies or protection of their monopolies?

          Maybe they shouldn't have. You're welcome to step into a time machine, go back 70 years, and prevent both from happening.

          Until you succeed in changing the history of the public telephone network, we are entitled to dictate terms to common carriers. The infrastructure that SBC always brags about in its commercials was built with public money.

    • No, it's economics. The idea is that there is only a limited amount of space to run wires in -- so let a single regional provider do that. A virtually unlimited number of companies could provide LD service over those wires -- so let them compete to the death.

      This is the idea that broke up AT&T. Whether it applies to DSL I have my doubts, but the regulation has withstood numerous challenges in court, at the agency level (FCC) and in Congress.

      • > The idea is that there is only a limited amount
        > of space to run wires in -- so let a single
        > regional provider do that.

        There is only a limited amount of space to build grocery stores in -- so let a single regional provider do that.

        > I have my doubts, but the regulation has
        > withstood numerous challenges in court, at the
        > agency level (FCC) and in Congress.

        Yes, of course it has. What has that got to do with whether or not it is right?
        • There is only a limited amount of space to build grocery stores in -- so let a single regional provider do that.

          Don't be ridiculous. Utilities need by far the most amount of space per consumer than any other business -- they require physical control of an complete pathway to their customers. The space a utility line consumes is not only large per customer, but that space must be located in a specific, small range of space for each and every customer to the point where it actually must connect to their home/business. A grocery store takes a vastly smaller amount space per customer and that space can be located miles away from those customers.

          Yes, of course it has. What has that got to do with whether or not it is right?

          At least somebody must believe it is right, or it would have gotten shot down by now. The fact that it has survived assaults under each branch of government must imply there are some good arguments for it lurking somewhere.

      • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @01:20AM (#4955900)
        Whoa! Let's clarify the rules -- it's a lot more subtle. More like Microsoft's monopoly than the old Bell System.

        Anybody can open a local phone company nowadays. Lots of us have... but if you want to reach residential subscribers, you can't afford to pull new copper wire (old technology, very capital-intensive) to each house. That is a true "natural monopoly", which means that the cost to a competitor would be much higher than the cost to the incumbent, making competition unworkable.

        However, there's no natural monopoly to various other aspects of the business. So for instance Bell competitors (CLECs) can rent the wire, at a regulated rate, and provide dialtone and/or DSL over it. Covad does this, for instance. The current regulations (which may change; the Bells are doing a full-frontal attack on them at the FCC, and chairman Powell's their lapdog) also require the Bells to rent their switches at wholesale to CLECs. So a CLEC can lease Bell copper loops and switches, and thus provide service with none of its own equipment. This is called the "UNE Platform" and is how most (though not all) non-cable residential telephone "competition" works. Note that if it's called UNE-P, the CLEC sets its own prices quite freely, vs. the declining-in-popularity so-called "total service Resale" where the CLEC is just taking a commission on Bell's regular rates. So UNE-P lets New York City and Chicago subscribers get flat rate service, without Zone charges; it powers MCI's "Neighborhood" too. Note that Bells are not required to provide DSL to CLECs as a wholesale service, so it isn't part of UNE-P.

        The controversy: If SBC (or another Bell) provides the dialtone, then they will also sell their ADSL atop it. The price for residential ADSL is held down because the dialtone line is paying for the loop; SBC's own ADSL "business" gets the line for basically free. So can Covad -- they can rent the "high frequency element" of an SBC dialtone line for near zero. BUT if the SBC dialtone line is being provisioned on a UNE-P or Resale basis, so MCI or AT&T (etc.) is the end user's phone company of record, then SBC as a matter of policy chooses not to provide its DSL service. This is pure spite, not technology --the UNE-P line is identical to an SBC-service line, and the UNE-P CLEC is already paying for the loop.

        The nice thing about UNE-P is that you can switch carriers without really touching anything -- it's a computer entry, of who gets billed how much by whom. But because SBC refuses to sell DSL atop UNE-P, they "lock in" voice subscribers by threatening to take away the ADSL. They're gambling that they'll make more money by keeping voice subscriber than they'll lose by having UNE-P subscribers switch to other DSL providers. And, more likely, they are just such monopolists at heart that they don't give a rat's ass about maximizing their own profit, if they can thumb their nose at a competitor.

        This all has interesting antitrust connotations (no, Bells are not exempt from antitrust any more) but that will take years to play out.
    • The whole idea of requiring phone company A to allow phone company B to sell "service" over phone company A's lines is ludicrous. Just let them both run their own lines.

      Okay, the thing is, the phone network which is in place now has taken about 100 years to build. Along with the time involved, it has taken an amount of money that, if converted and expressed solely in 2002 dollars, would be a sum so large that it is incomprehensible. Oh, you might think you can comprehend it, and you may be able to express it mathematically, but in real terms it's a useless value. No one can afford it.

      • Most of that outside plant was installed when doing so was much, much more expensive. I have two fiber-optic cables and two buried telephone cables crossing my land, and I live among dairy farms 100 miles from the nearest large city. These cables belong to two different companies and the owner of the second telephone cable intends to offer service on it soon (it was laid a couple of years ago).
    • Nobody's stopping them from running their own lines.

      BUT... phone companies, like public utilities and most cable companies, are natural monopolies. That is, the initial investment required for buildout is so high that it more or less excludes competitors from building their own infrastructure. Requiring these phone companies to sell the usage of their lines to other companies that provide other services makes perfect sense in my mind. It opens up those services to more competition through the lower financial barrier to entry.

      • > phone companies, like public utilities and most
        > cable companies, are natural monopolies.

        If they were natural monopolies there would not be laws in most jurisdictions making it illegal to compete with them.
        • The government already paid for the laying of those lines. So, I imagine, the government should have a say.

          Don't like it? Tough tits, that's capitalism. He who has the bucks gets the rights.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      So how many lines to you expect to be run? I'd hate to have my yard or the city streets dug up any more than they already are!

      Really... just think how many local providers there are.

      Why don't they just separate the local-loop provider from the local service, DSL, and long distance carriers? This company would just sell lines to other phone companies and would make all of its revenue that way. It is the only part of phone service which makes sense to be a monopoly.

      Then local providers and long distance providers could compete on fair ground and there wouldn't be any conflicts of interest, forced sales, or screwed over customers.
    • That line of reasoning works until you hit the brick wall of history. One company (a federally supported monopoly) ran the copper wires into your home (if you live in the US). That one company, supported by the government, invested that capital. Then, in 1986, the government broke that monopoly apart. So all of a sudden, the copper wires connecting you to the network were owned by "Baby Bells" and your long distance service was controlled by the company that formerly owned those splinter companies.

      Fast forward to 1996...the Internet's taking off and competition is nada in the telecom sector. In typical knee-jerk reaction mode (largely due to campaign contributions), we get the Telecom Bill which mandates that local providers will open their networks to competitors and long distance providers will open their networks to competitors.

      The catfight begins. And while these companies fight and lobby, it is the consumer that suffers.

  • by USC-MBA ( 629057 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:32AM (#4955765) Homepage
    The article makes clear that SBC is using its position as sole provider of DSL services to the Norhtern California area to prevent customers from switching telephone services to rival companies.

    While this tactic might seem counter-productive, serving mainly to make SBC look bad while rival services gear up to implement their own DSL offerings, it would be helpful to take a look at SBC's situation from the company's standpoint.

    SBC's third quarter earning report [] show the company getting absolutely hammered on the earnings front, with revenues off 14 percent, down over a billion dollars from a year ago. This drop can be attributed to competition between phone services, and more importantly, the rise of alternative communications technology. While DSL subscribers are increasing steadily, the added inflow of dollars is being more than offset by the hemmorhaging in the phone services sector.

    Thus it can be seen that big phone companies relying primarily on local and long distance phone service are seeing their traditional market being eroded away, and are panicking. Look for more tricks like the DSL service hostage stunt in the near future as lumbering Old Economy companies try anything to shore up their shrinking incomes.

    Hopefully, companies like SBC will soon be willing to implement the kind of out-of-the-box thinking needed to restructure their companies for the (gradually...) emerging New Economy, and will leave these kind of lame tricks in the past. Until then, there's always cable.

  • by Jacer ( 574383 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:43AM (#4955804) Homepage
    I moved to in with two of my not so computer savvy friends, who insisted on the microsoft name, well, after struggeling with delayed shipping, and a whole list of other hassels, we got it hooked up, but, the my computer doesn't get a -REAL- ip address, my modem gets the IP, then it does NAT/firewall, but with a subnet, so it will only assign one computer, which pisses me off to no end, after less than 20 minutes of fitzing around and RTFM'ing i call MSN, i can't turn the feature off, they apologize, i arrange to have my ISP switched, call back in 20 minutes and cancel service, good thing there wasn't a contract, whew! i still have to pay $50 for internet for less than a day, i'm irked
  • This is perfectly accurate. As far as we can tell, PacBell has the equipment sitting in the CO waiting to be connected, they just wouldn't use it until this happened their way. As much as I hate to see another monoply grow and the baby bells get really powerful again, I am glad that it is likly we will now get DSL. The horrors of dial-up will hopefully be a thing of the past.

    I just wish it wasn't at the risk of another monoply. But I seem to have no other choice, which should shout a warning. I won't leave much of an excerise to the reader to figure out what I mean.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    SBC got rid of unbundled loops just for this reason so you have to use their phone service to get ADSL.

    with an unbundled network element SBC doesn't get to rape its customers. Only CLECS are allowed to purchase UNI circuits.

    SBC is basically shoving there phone service down your throat wether you need it or not.

    With a unbundled network element you can have a ADSL circuit plus use any phone company you want.

    SBC first offered ADSL as a lineshare option or an unbundled loop but realized they could rape you by not offering that option anymore
  • related (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jchristopher ( 198929 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @01:21AM (#4955902)
    An offtopic, but related question:

    Why do I need a voice line in order to get DSL service in the first place? I don't want a voice line and I can't be the only one.

    Because of this, anyone who wants DSL must also pay (Verizon, in Los Angeles) $26/month for a voice line they have no intention of using.

    Is it like that everywhere or just here?

    • Re:related (Score:4, Informative)

      by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @02:00AM (#4956001) Homepage
      It depends on who your phone company is, their equipment, and so forth.

      Some local providers do this because they don't want the added expense of having two copper pairs (the local loop people because they have to allocate and maintain that many extra lines, and the CLECs because they have to pay the local loop people for every copper pair they use).

      If you are getting business-class service, such as SDSL, then you automatically get a second copper pair for it and no voice line is required.

      On a semi-related note:

      We recently placed an order through Speakeast for SDSL service, 1.1M upload and download rate, static IP, etc. We are paying $200/mo, but it is business class service. Wanna host your own servers? go right ahead. Wanna run filesharing apps all day long? None of our business what you do with your own line.

      The difference comes with having both a good, customer-friendly ISP (speakeasy) and business class service (aka NewEdge isn't going to take orders from the RIAA).
      • Ah but 200 bucks a month easly covers the real cost of that meg a sec (about 100 bucks in bulk) tack on another hundred for the line, there network bits, administrative and technical overhead with some left over for profit. This sounds like an actual valid business price that makes a nice slim net margin (I'm assuming a bit here) to bad Speakeasy dosent seem to be avalible here in CT.
    • Is it like that everywhere or just here?

      Yes, it's normal. I think it's mostly because all the phone company's database systems are based around the idea that every account is tied to a telephone number. It's technically possible to run DSL over a dry pair with no voice service, but unless they assigned you a phone number, they'd have no way to track it (for billing and maintenance purposes). Of course their databases could be upgraded to handle this sort of thing, but these databases have been around since before the AT&T breakup.
    • In Japan you can get DSL without voice service which will save you about 600-700 dollars in the "line rights."

      The phone company is happy to provide the copper line for you (or activate your current voice line into a DSL only line) because they get their share of "carry-DSL-fee" (about 20 dollars a month) regardless. ISPs (you pick one) who actually provide you with the DSL service charges around 30 dollars for between 8Mbit-12Mbit service.

      I heard that CA is the only place that can't do the no-voice line thing, though; but don't quote me on this one.
      • I live in San Francisco.

        I just got my second dedicated voiceless Covad DSL circuit installed - first one was with an ISP using Covad lines, second one is with Covad directly (they bought some ISP so there is now ISP and the DSL provider.)

        I suspect that I had to get a second line because of some database problems in Covad itself; also, one of them was using ADSL and another SDSL.

        Both lines are actually provided by Pacbell - their technicians came here to install them.

        By the way, minimal rate for voice line with per-minute charges (line-measured rate in Pacbell speak) is under 8 dollars a month. Basic service with flat rate costs under 11 dollars a month.
    • "Why do I need a voice line in order to get DSL service in the first place? I don't want a voice line and I can't be the only one."

      Because SBC (or Verizon) said so, and they own the wire to your house. It will probably take a law change to get them to play fair.
  • Is this reverse bundling? Instead of giving you something for 'free', they force you to buy one, unrelated thing, to get another thing. This folks, is a load of shit. I hope that the California PUC drops the hammer on SBC. I'm in Maryland, and my business had to buy a $12/month (okay, it was actually $20, since it's a 'business' line) line just to get DSL. Of course, I couldn't get DSL, since asshole Verizon and stupid business decisions from Northpoint killed off competitive DSL in the area.

    If the Baby Bells hadn't had piss poor (or no) service since 1982, if they hadn't done almost everything in their power to alienate customers as much as AT&T before them, if they hadn't been collecting monopoly rents for 20 years, perhaps there would be no market for CLEC's. But there are.

    This is very similar to the thinking in RIAA member companies. Let's treat the customer like garbage, let's increase the charge for this 'service', and then let's dig in our heels and bring out big legislative guns to keep things that way.

    • If the Baby Bells hadn't had piss poor (or no) service since 1982

      Which, coincidentally, is right when the government decided to start regulating the telcos, with the break up of the Bells and the first requirements for telcos to make their infrastructure available to competitors.

      So more regulation is the solution?

      my business had to buy a $12/month (okay, it was actually $20, since it's a 'business' line) line just to get DSL

      What do you think DSL is carried over? Keep in mind there are multiple layers to a network here:

      Physical layer - Copper wire
      Link layer - DSL/ATM (carried over copper)
      IP layer - Your ISP (carried over DSL/ATM)

      Which of these do you think you should have to pay for? Just #3? Just #2 and #3?

      The cost of the physical line to your home, including maintenance and support, comes out of standard, typical telephone service. Even if the telco were to dedicate a single copper connection to your DSL line without telephone service, somehow there's got to be a charge to cover their maintenance costs over that line. DSL service just covers the additional work to provide you with DSL and ATM connectivity, not the physical line.

      So either suck it up and pay for local phone service (which you can get metered, without touch-tone, for fairly cheap), or petition and write letters so that they can give you your DSL line without telephone service, but with an inflated cost to cover maintenance over the physical line. Personally, I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask for, but I wouldn't expect you'll save much money in the long run.
      • I've wasted a pair of wires in the cabinet to this dead line. Why do they need to provision one pair of copper when the DSL signal is carried over a different pair?

        Local phone service is cheap residentially, but, being a business, Verizon asks us to bend over just a little further for the line.

        Personally, I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask for, but I wouldn't expect you'll save much money in the long run.

        You do understand that 'long run' is actually a technical term, and not merely a figure of speech? First, I will save money, in both the long and short terms. Second, who gives a shit how much money is saved? I would have saved money, isn't that enough? What has Verizon done to earn that extra little bit of money? Two things: jack and shit. So why should they get it? Isn't that money better in my pocket, and perhaps spreading around the company? No, that $4 per month isn't much, but if I find a hundred or a thousand similar things where the company is paying $4 too much per month, we're talking about raises for some underpaid people.

        Which, coincidentally, is right when the government decided to start regulating the telcos, with the break up of the Bells and the first requirements for telcos to make their infrastructure available to competitors.

        So more regulation is the solution?

        It's when THE telco was found guilty of abusing monopoly power, and the federal government decided to remedy the situation. My understanding is that competition was only allowed/required in long distance services. There was no local dialtone competition until 1996.

        This isn't more regulation. It's saying 'knock off the bullshit'. Again, this is an industry given a monopoly in the interest of the public. That interest being universal telephone coverage. They could have kept it if they hadn't abused it. They abused it.
        • Why do they need to provision one pair of copper when the DSL signal is carried over a different pair?

          Maybe I misunderstood your original problem. A phone line consists of a single pair of copper. DSL re-uses that existing pair (the upper range of frequencies supported on this pair) to put data on an existing (presumably voice) line. But it almost sounds like you have one pair dedicated to voice and a second pair that you want to put DSL on, and you're objecting to the fact that they had to put a dial tone on this pair as well? Why couldn't they re-use the existing phone line? I'm a little confused, sorry.

          First, I will save money, in both the long and short terms.

          I guess it all boils down to the cost difference between a line of copper with dialtone and one without. Either you get local phone service (copper + dial tone + DSL), or you get additional charges to your DSL service to cover the cost and maintenance of the copper (copper + DSL).

          I can see how a telco might try to make the case that the actual cost of a dial tone is trivial in comparison with the actual line, in which case you're probably going to be SOL, but it's certainly possible that you will get a slightly better deal out of it. It's also possible that the cost of a dialtone is 0 when you're already going to be connecting a line with DSL, in which case it's probably simpler (and cheaper) to bill it as local phone service. I don't know, though. I'd write them and see what they say.

          The rest of your points are accurate and good.
          • I see what you are saying wrt running the voice and the dsl over the same pair of copper. My beef is that Verizon is using two pairs of copper. One has voice, and one has DSL. IOW, they aren't piggybacking the DSL signal over the voice line.

  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @01:23AM (#4955911)
    This is just one of their latest ploys. They're also trying to get rid of the Unbundled Network Elements that let their competitors offer local service in the first place. They're fighting tooth and nail against any competition at all.

    What sickens me the most is how SBC uses the cloud of smoke to its advantage. In blazenly pays for commercials to be aired which says how they support competition in the telephone industry and they're working towards it. At the exact same time they're active sabotaging it. Remember that unfriendly, uncooperative monopoly of ten years ago? Same people. Never think for a moment that they are working in your interest. They are NOT.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      They're also trying to get rid of the Unbundled Network Elements that let their competitors offer local service in the first place. They're fighting tooth and nail against any competition at all.

      That's not entirely accurate. According to the way the FCC wrote the UNE rules, SBC has to provide it's competitors (AT&T, MCI, Verizon, etc) the lines for something like $11.00 each. These very same lines cost something like $20.00 to SBC. How do I know? I work for SBC, closely with some of the groups that are involved with the UNE-P hullabaloo. Is it really unreasonable for a company to be able to get THEIR COST for parts of their infractructure that they are legally required to sell to their competitors? These same competitors didn't lay the same ground-work... This whole thing is kind of like "affirmative action" in that the concept is good but the execution is flawed. Special rights? No, just EQUAL rights, along with the responsibilities and crap that goes along with it.

  • by Bjarne Bula ( 11937 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @01:30AM (#4955924)
    In my mind, this is all an anachronism - you have cable-TV, phone and electric wiring going out to every household in pretty much all of the civilized world these days. Is it just me, or doesn't this strike you as being two companies in the wire business too many?

    In many places in the world, you can today choose your provider of electrons to power your gadgets, but you typically have a lot less options when it comes to wires that provide a little more structure to the very same electrons (beyond the 50/60 Hz).

    It would seem to me that in the future, we'll see a local "wiring company" that pretty much only provides the wires (electric and data), while power generation, cable-TV, telephony, Internet will all be provided by separate companies. (I hope the last three will actually be rolled into one service, but never mind that.)

    I'm personally just waiting for the cell phone providers to wake up and realize that if they were to drop their outrageous charges for air time in the cells covering people's homes (call it the "home area"), then a lot of people would completely give up on the concept of land line phones and opt for just having personal mobile phones.

    It would kill the market for cordless phones, though. ;-)
    • I'm personally just waiting for the cell phone providers to wake up and realize that if they were to drop their outrageous charges for air time in the cells covering people's homes (call it the "home area"),

      BTDT. In some areas, there are definitely services like that. Here, there's one by the name of 'Cricket'-- unlimited local calls and a fixed allocation of long-distance for ~USD 40 a month. A second similar programme ('Boomerang') seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. They advertise on the premise that you no longer need a land-line.

      The principal inconvinence with this system is that it's prepaid, and you have to add stored-value if you want to make additional long-distance calls.

  • I originally had Ameritech (now SBC) DSL installed at both the office and home. 1.5M sDSL @ the office and 768/168K aDSL @ home.

    Garbage service and _reliability_. Lasted a month at the office before being replaced with a T1 with another provider.

    Kept it at home as it was the _only_ choice in town. Was. Due to ongoing poor service and a sudden speed to 384/128K for no apparent reason -- yet their billing and website for me have is at the already gotten 768K speed.

    They asked me if somebody else in the neighborhood recently got DSL. I hung up the phone laughing...

    Current trend in this area is 5Ghz wireless with the ISP currently _easily_ giving you 2Mbs/768K bandwidth for the same cost.

    This is my _only_ option as I refuse to get a phone line to try and get DSL with another provider. They all say SBC *requires* a POTS line even though I do have my backup/voice ISDN line with them. Not for long -- that's going to ANYBODY else for that service due to their games.

    Not to mention I'm in charge of the office lines covering a couple of T1's, PRI's and a few dozen POTS and BRI lines peppered about. All about to be changed to other providers over their DSL games.

    Obviously I'm not the only one... How ironic.
    • Due to ongoing poor service and a sudden speed to 384/128K for no apparent reason

      Out of curiosity, did you call them and ask them what was up? What did they say? I'm surprised that someone with your immense clout wasn't able to get this resolved.

      Since we're sharing anecdotes, I figured I'd pipe up and mention that I've had DSL service through SBC (in the Southwestern Bell region) for about 3 years now and have had 3 detectable outages, two just after midnight (implying they were doing maintenance and rebooted some equipment) and the third during the day while I was out. I have consistent 1.2 - 1.5Mbit service. So service and reliability is stellar for me.

      Support is another matter, though. It's impossible to get through first tier support without connecting a Windows PC to your DSL connection, running through all of your IP and DNS settings, and try pulling up a web page. This makes support worthless to me, but as I said above, I've only needed it a couple of times.

      Mainly I want to warn people that even though it's all technically SBC, each region is still being served by what is basically their old pre-SBC telephone company. Service in the Ameritech region can't reasonably compare with service from the Pacific Bell or Southwestern Bell region. Keep that in mind when people are rating their DSL service. I also recommend DSL Reports [] for a good sense of broadband service in your immediate areas.
  • They've been calling. They've been mailing letters. SBC has really really tried to get me to switch back from Worldcom ("The Neighborhood") as my local carrier with unmetered long distance... oh... and unmetered "local long distance" in my own area code. Here is their latest attempt [] to convince me to switch back.

    They don't have anything close to what I'm getting now. In fact, SBC just got through dropping the plan I had with them, "Local Plus", which was unlimited "local long distance" (again, calls inside your area code that are long distance) so they've moved even further away from what I want.

    I figure they're probably going to harrass me for an eternity or until I switch back. I'm more than happy to them to be spending money to pursue me. I'm tired of giving my money to them.

    I have identified only two companies that I have dealt with which I believe actually hate their customers and work against them. The first was TCI, the second was SBC. Even at a state level, we have people working with/against SBC (your PUC... public utilities commission, where they go to make their rate and service changes) to prevent them from completely screwing everyone over. Doesn't that tell you something if your own state is protecting you against this company?
  • The whole argument revolves around how DSL is defined. To most of us Slashdotters (and consumers in general), we see DSL as a seperate entity from local phone service. This probably stems from dial-up being seperate from the local phone service. However, one can make the argument (and it seems SBC has) that DSL is a service add-on, therefore cannot by transferred when you switch local carriers. So, think of it as Caller ID... you lose caller id if you switch to a carrier that doesn't offere caller ID. The technology is there for SBC to still offer caller id to you, but, you don't have their local service anymore.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Decisions, decisions...

    Seems to me choosing whom to root for amongst any of the big TelCo's would be alike trying to choose whom to root for in a war between Iraq and North Korea.

    Personally, I would tend to vote in favour of mutual annihilation.

  • MCI called me up last summer and offered me a much better deal on local service. Plus some swag (I think it was free Blockbuster rentals for 6 months or so). I was for it, spent about 8 minutes answering questions. And at the end, I said "Hey, I have DSL, that's okay, isn't it?"

    They said no. Which suprised me because for some unknown reason, I don't trust corporations much.

    Dang kids can't play fair.

    Merry Xmas, I'm about to get suckered into fixing relatives computers all day. Lots of "The reason why your Windows 98 crashes so much is because it's Windows 98". Neverending circle that one is.

  • I have been waiting for over three YEARS for SBC to deliver DSL to my residence. I live in the digital backwater of Dallas, TX (in the city limits) just a few miles from the once mighty telecom corridor. My SLOW dialup service has been OK as long as there are no probllems. When there are problems, the "service representitives" are useless, clueless, troubleshooting diagram followers with no backup from anyone who actually knows anything remotely related to ISP operations. There is no customer service number in case the problems encountered are not solved ! Even my SLOW dialup connection is rate limited ! They cut off my dial up connection after several hours even when I'm actively browsing. They cut off my dialup connection after several hours when I'm attempting long downloads. Contrary to what they say on their stupid commercials they have spent millions on lawyers fees (and political contributions) to keep the most powerfull lock they have on their customers, the pair of copper wires running to the houses, out of the reach of their competitors. Ma Bell LIVES, she just changed her name to SBC.
  • I work for the big dog AT&T and I can tell you that *Broadband* DSL is not affected by the rings of the Bells. However, Comcast now has our former BB market--we sold it off. It *was* confusing and now it's out of the house. Traditional local phone service, where we offer it, has to be in areas where either Southwestern Bell or Verizon service--as a rule. It's whether or not the RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies) will sell us the stuff. Otherwise, we can't provision the service. Broadband is a digital market and--to the best of my understanding--is not affected by SWBTP. Regular DSL, however, is. I'm in the LD/landline biz so I will find out more and post more later!
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