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.
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.
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
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.
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 (www.pacbell.com/products/business/fastrak/dsl/pricing.html).
They provide various levels of service. To illustrate, the following are representative
plans offered by Pacific Bell Internet (PBI - public.pacbell.net), Pacific Bell's ISP
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
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 www.concentric.net/products_services/dedicated_access/dsl_access/faq.html.
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 email@example.com and
on the Web at www.ds-a.com.