June 21, 2006

AT&T Offers Stand-Alone DSL

By Jim Stafford, The Daily Oklahoman

Jun. 21--Oklahomans who want to buy high-speed Internet service -- and nothing else -- from AT&T now have that choice.

As the result of an agreement with California regulators in conjunction with the SBC merger with AT&T Corp. last year, the company has cut the ties that bind DSL services to its voice telephone business. SBC acquired AT&T in 2005 and changed its name to AT&T Inc.

Until it implemented the stand-alone DSL offering, AT&T required customers who wanted DSL service to subscribe also to its telephone service. It's called "bundling."

Now that it has unbundled the services, Oklahomans who want high-speed Internet in their homes but prefer to use only a wireless telephone provider or a voice-over-Internet-protocol telephone provider, such as Vonage, are free to proceed.

AT&T spokesman Andy Morgan said the company has offered the stand-alone DSL service for about a week. It is called AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet No Voice Line.

The most basic DSL service will cost subscribers $44.99 a month, based on a sixth-month contract. Subscribers who want the DSL service on a month-to-month basis will pay $49.99.

Morgan said AT&T officials see little effect from the stand-alone DSL offering.

"I think while some customers want the stand-alone service, the trend we've been seeing for quite a while is toward bundled services," he said. "People see the value when you bundle the services together. They want a suite of services that pull together voice, data and video."

Lisa Pierce, telecommunications analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, said the pricing structure should prompt prospective customers to do some comparative shopping.

"Price-sensitive customers will have to compare bundles to determine the potential savings they'll receive from using different ISPs and voice providers," Pierce said.

For customers who prefer bundled services, AT&T sells its most basic DSL package for $12.99 a month.

Cox Communications, another local Internet service provider, also offers stand-alone broadband Internet service. New customers can subscribe to the Cox service in an introductory offer for as low as $24.95 a month, according to its Web site.

Morgan said AT&T offers a stand-alone Internet bundle with its Cingular Wireless cell phone subsidiary for $39.99 a month.

The regulatory agreement that severed the ties between DSL and telephone service drew praise from Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony, who last year opposed the company's bid to deregulate most of its residential telephone services in the state.

"This is a good provision, which allows telephone customers to choose stand-alone high-speed Internet if that's what they want and need," Anthony said.

Telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan in Atlanta said most consumers won't notice the "unbundling" of DSL services.

"I don't think it is important to most customers," Kagan said. "But for those that want a stand-alone high-speed product, they should be happy."


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