WATPA: FW: "Slow road to DSL satisfaction "

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From: Norman J. Jacknis (norm@jacknis.com)
Date: Mon Sep 18 2000 - 21:54:45 EDT

A follow-up to our programs on DSL earlier this year. Thought you might be interested.


Slow road to DSL satisfaction


By PETER SVENSSON, Associated Press

NEW YORK (September 17, 2000 3:16 p.m. EDT
http://www.nandotimes.com) -

The ads are everywhere: High-speed Internet over your phone line!

Baby Bells and Internet service providers are pushing digital subscriber lines, or DSL, as the way to get the home connected. What the ads don't say is that DSL installation fails in many cases, leaving customers fuming.

Dana Smith regrets ever ordering DSL for her Brooklyn, N.Y., home. After five months of struggling with three different companies involved in the installation process, she still has no high-speed Internet access.

"It's been a nightmare. Everything's a big mess," she said.

At its best, DSL is an elegant technology that speeds up Internet downloads more than 10 times compared to a dial-up modem, yet leaves the phone line free for regular calls. And it's offered at a price many are willing to pay for a fast onramp to the Internet: typically $40 to $60 a month after a setup fee of $100 to $300.

According to analyst Lisa Pierce at Giga Information Group, there were
570,000 DSL users in the United States in March, and the number is expected
to grow to 15 million in five years, making it the most common form of residential high-speed Internet connection after cable modems.

But many customers find the road to the high-speed Internet is slow and
tortuous. There are Web sites devoted to the grievances of DSL customers,
and newsgroups are full of tales of incompetent tech support, installation
no-shows, and service outages.

A large part of the problem seems to lie in the way DSL often relies on the
cooperation of three companies.

An Internet service provider, or ISP, typically sells the service, then
contracts with one of the three big DSL technology companies, Covad,
Northpoint or Rhythms, to connect the customer. The DSL companies in s tend to go for the low-hanging fruit, the customers with
good phone lines, said Justin Beech, who operates Dslreports.com, where DSL
customers rate their providers.

"They're advertising like crazy, but on the other hand they're not
interested in customers who are on the limit of being able to get DSL," he

Even when DSL has been installed, it's not always reliable. Giga's Pierce
tells users to expect the connection to be down an average of two days a
month, unless it is a more expensive "business-class" account. Keep a
regular dial-up account as a backup, she cautions.

"There's a lot interest out there, that's clear, but a lot of people are
finding a cable modem is less of a hassle," said Beech.

Even David Farber, chief technologist of the Federal Communications
Commission, has problems with DSL. In his e-mail newsletter last week, he
said his line had been out for five days, and the chain of companies that
provides it were unable to fix the problem.

"If this is typical then our image of the future of always connected
households ... is just a bad dream," he wrote.

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