Weekly Web Watch: Ask not for whom Bell Atlantic tolls. You won’t like the answer

Bell Atlantic deserves to die.

Bell Atlantic deserves to die.

Bell Atlantic deserves to die.

It deserves to be obliterated by the new economy and its rotting carcass

divided among companies that are willing to deliver a semblance of the

service it promises. Let me explain. A few months ago, in early March, I

applied for DSL Internet access. That’s the high-speed connection you

see ads for, where people seem to be doing things like watching movies

on Web sites and stuff that most home dial-up users can only dream


I applied to a provider called Speakeasy (good reviews, good deal).

It runs the service, but unfortunately Bell Atlantic still controls all

the physical phone lines that residential DSL service in New York runs

over. In order to get DSL, Bell Atlantic first has to install another

line to my apartment, something it is legally obliged to do under the

1996 Telecommunications Act. But I’d have to wait a few weeks, Speakeasy

told me.

And wait is what I did. Eventually, I started calling the Speakeasy help

line, but to no avail. ’We’re waiting on Bell Atlantic,’ was all they

could say. So again I waited, this time through a succession of

’facilities issues,’ work that was promised but never carried out and

work that was declared to have been carried out but was not.

When a Bell Atlantic engineer did eventually arrive at my apartment, he

turned out to be quite charming, just like the company’s pitchman James

Earl Jones. ’At least something seems to be happening at last,’ I think

to myself. How naive. After deploying some gadgets and sucking air

through his teeth for 15 minutes, he is charmingly apologetic. ’There is

a line allocated for your DSL. But there appears to be a fault with it


However, you wouldn’t even be able to run a voice phone service on it,

let alone DSL.’

’So can you fix it?’

’Oh, no. That would mean digging up the street to find the fault. For

the money that Bell Atlantic gets for these DSL connections, it’s just

not worth it,’ he tells me.

’So does that mean I can’t get DSL at all?’

’Oh, you can get DSL. If you apply for Bell Atlantic’s own DSL service

you’ll probably have it within a week. Admittedly it would be a lower

bandwidth than Speakeasy’s service, and Bell Atlantic ranks last in most

of the comparative reviews of DSL service. But it would be better than


So welcome to Bell Atlantic’s post-monopoly technique of customer

acquisition - and PR. And Bell Atlantic is not the only one. Bell South

has been accused of similar tactics, and DSL provider Covad last month

won dollars 27 million in damages against PacBell for ’failing to timely

deliver collocation space and operable loops.’

The reason for the rant, apart from needing to get this off my chest, is

that it neatly illustrates the gap between promise and reality when it

comes to much of the Internet. Remember, every time you see one of those

ads promising Web sites with video, music and the ball game from

multiple angles, that for most people it’s still a distant dream. The

reason is not any technical obstacle, and there is no lack of customers

who want the service or a lack of providers willing to sell it to


It’s just plain old-economy inertia, the death-spasm of an old monopoly

that will do everything in its power to prevent the future from


- Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at


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