California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - April 1999
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Legal specialist exam set Aug. 19
Sullivan to take reins at Stanford Law School
Only two appointed members remaining on State Bar board
Legal services board has five vacancies
Davis taps Michael Kahn
State Bar honors Justice Mosk with Witkin Medal
Board tentatively approves budget based on dues of $384
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If it distracts, so be it
Let's cut back on jury service
Limit bar to admissions and discipline
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From the President - Door to justice must be open
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Letters to the Editor
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Law Practice - Preparing for a successful mediation
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Appointments - Apply to serve on a bar committee
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Legal Tech - DSL speeds up Internet - at a reasonable price
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New Products & Services
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MCLE Self-Study
Taxes and long-term care
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Trials Digest
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Ethics Byte - Fiduciary duties basis for all rules
Attorney nabbed at State Bar offices for soliciting murders
Attorney Discipline
Ethics for the 21st Century - A canon for the future
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Public Comment


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DSL speeds up Internet - at a reasonable price

Advances in technology have combined with competitive pressure and customer demands to bring high-speed access to the masses

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Dana ShultzThe local phone companies and Internet service providers have finally gotten it right. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) provides high-speed Internet access at a reasonable price.

If you have ever tried using the Web at dial-up speed, you know how frustrating the experience can be. The good news is that technological advances have combined with competitive pressure and customer demands to bring high-speed Internet access to the masses.

The technology

DSL is a digital communication technology. The subscriber's computer or network is always attached to the Internet.

Access speeds typically range between 128 kbps (128,000 bits per second) and 1.5 mbps (1.5 million bits per second). Because of the inherent efficiency of digital access, even the slowest DSL connection is likely to be at least four times as fast as the quickest dial-up connection.

DSL coexists with a standard home or business telephone circuit. So, for example, you can use an existing fax line for DSL access.

A device called a splitter attaches the two services to the circuit. The standard analog device (e.g., the fax machine) plugs into the splitter's analog port. The splitter's digital port connects to a device called a DSL modem.

The DSL modem, in turn, connects to the computer or network by any of three means. First, a stand-alone PC can use a 10BaseT network interface card to connect to the DSL modem. Second, a standard hub can connect a network to the DSL modem.

Third, a DSL router can connect a network to the DSL modem. This last approach is the most secure, especially if a firewall is added between the router and the network.

The providers

Because of the deregulation of local telecommunication services, DSL requires two vendors: the local exchange carrier (LEC) and the Internet service provider (ISP).

Most Californians still have Pacific Bell as their LEC. However, there are many ISPs to choose from. For example, as I write this column in late February, Pacific Bell lists 13 ISPs that it works with (

They provide various levels of service. To illustrate, the following are representative plans offered by Pacific Bell Internet (PBI -, Pacific Bell's ISP affiliate.

At the low end, single-PC access is available at 128 kbps upstream (to the ISP) and 384 kbps downstream (to the user) for $49 per month, assuming a one-year commitment. This fee includes both Pacific Bell and PBI charges. Installation services and connection hardware are likely to cost less than $500.

At the high end, network access is available at 384 kbps upstream and 1.5 mbps downstream for $328 per month. Installation and hardware are likely to cost between $1,000 and $1,500.

The limitations

The bad news is that DSL is not available everywhere. For example, in Oakland, DSL is available downtown but not in the hills. And even where DSL is available, the LEC must test circuit quality.

Nevertheless, DSL is a good service at a fair price. If you have technical questions, check out Concentric Network Corporation's DSL FAQ at

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based lawyer, certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He may be reached by e-mail at and on the Web at