Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cutting the Cord

Hello, my colleagues in the abuse of technology. I'll do some introductory blogging later about the wonder that is me, but let's jump right in today to hatin' on the phone company, killing old paradigms, and maybe saving three or four hundred dollars a year.

If you've got a cell phone and/or use Skype, Vonage, SunRocket, or one of the other VOIP providers, it's officially time to cut the cord, guys.

They're so embarrassed about it that they haven't told anyone, but Verizon is rolling out 'Naked DSL'.

Maybe they're afraid that the FCC might think they're showing their nipples.

(Click here for rest)


Rory Harper said...

It's less evocatively known as 'Dry-loop DSL'. You can now drop your land-line, but still get DSL from them. Verizon experienced *cough* technical problems issues for about a year with this.

Folk less generous than me might suspect that their marketing and accounting people were totally freaked at the implications of people no longer being forced to pay for their buggy-whip technology to get DSL?

Lots of telcos are gearing up on this, some reluctantly, some not, but I'm going to write about Verizon, since they're the evil monopoly in my small part of the world. Check out your local situation and report back here if you wish.

It took me almost an hour to reach a live Verizon rep who could talk to me about it. They make it as hard as possible to change over. They charge an extra $5 a month for your DSL connection if you don't have a land-line. You have to put your DSL service on a credit card, rather than pay for it on a phone bill. Tragically, they haven't figured out how to bill you for DSL, I suppose. You have to turn off both services, then start up your DSL service anew, with a two-week gap in between.

Here's how to game their system:

First, since it's technically a new DSL service if you do this, you qualify for promotions and rebates as a new customer. Dell, for instance, offers a $100 rebate if you order Verizon DSL through them. (Similar rebates with other DSL providers, incidentally, and you don't have to buy a computer to get the deal.)

Dell DSL Deal

This may make the gap worth your while.

Alternatively, if you port your land-line number over to a VOIP provider, there's no break in either service. I practically had to water-board the Verizon rep to get this confession. If I hadn't already known about it, she wasn't gonna tell me.

I'm still trying to figure out how to get the Dell deal and also avoid the service gap. Will report on that if I succeed.

I'm considering just ditching my land-line number and informing my very few friends that they can reach me at a new SkypeIn number, which costs 30 Euros per year. I've always wanted to go to Europe to do some shopping, and this would be like that. Sort of.

Another upside to this plan is that I'll no longer get all the charming telemarketing calls that tell me that I've been pre-approved to consolidate all my credit cards. Since I've never had a credit card, they've been wasting lots of our country's precious electron reserves.

My daughter and I both have free Skype accounts already, and video-phone most every evening. Steve and I do the same, though not as often, since he isn't as awesome as Rachael. His Skype number is [Message Redacted by Steve]. There's a bit of latency, but it's entirely bearable.

If you have broadband and aren't already video-phoning with your loved ones, I strongly encourage you do check it out. It's a qualitatively different experience than voice-talking. Much more satisfying to communicate this way, since we primates get so much info from the postures and facial expressions of other primates.

DSL and the cheapo PSP EyeToy hacked to be a great webcam (we'll talk about that later this week) gives you fast refresh times and good enough resolution that it's changed my mind about the benefits of vidding.

Yeah, I know, I'm still handing the phone company my money, but the less the better. What's really giving them nightmares is that a lot of cities are starting to wire up to provide ubiquitous high-speed wireless, with the miniscule cost rolled into your municipal fees. Telco lobbyists have been feverishly bribing politicians to prevent this for the past year or so.

I long for the day when Verizon is no longer able to promiscuously give up my personal info to satisfy the salacious curiosity of our enemies in the US government.

Because they won't have that info any more.

Anonymous said...

I also have Verizon as my land-line provider, but have my DSL (over Verizon's line) through a local ISP because it's cheaper. The question is, can I cut the cord and still keep my DSL through my ISP?

Carl the Great said...

This works for AT&T/SBC DSL as well. I recently switched. The overall monthly cost dropped 25 bucks for me from dropping the unused land line, so I'm pretty happy.

barry said...

Qwest made it quite easy i told them i wanted a stand alone / naked dsl line and they knew exactly what i wanted and i think it only costs $2 more a month

Alexa said...

I read this post and called up AT&T/SBC and they said right away that Naked DSL would cost an average of $20-25 more than DSL with phone line:

DSL w/o phone is $49.95/month + a $200 installation fee (not sure if that's relevant if I already have the phone line equipment set up?).

But apparently the phone service part of my DSL bill is only $5.70 anyway, which I didn't realize, and the total cost of DSL with phone line is only about $27.00.

So I guess it's not always a great deal to switch.

Brian said...

QWest has been offering "naked" DSL for at least a couple years, they'll tell you about it right up front. They're still on my death-list, however, for convincing Salt Lake City to back out of plans for a municipal fiber optic infrastructure because it wasn't "fair". Now I'm paying $60/mo. for 1.5 Mb while all the cities surrounding SLC have 15 Mb available for $40/mo.

Rory Harper said...

Hey, anonymous -- If I was you, I'd call both Verizon and your ISP. My suspicion is that your ISP is going to be fielding lots of calls on this issue before too much longer.

It would be common sense that, since you've already decoupled your DSL and your land-line, it would be problem-free to just drop your land-line.

But Verizon doesn't want you to drop them, so I'd make sure first, because if they can figure out a way to make it more difficult for you, they will.

..Maybe I'm being too harsh. I have a really lousy attitude about Verizon after the way they rolled over on the NSA thing.

Anonymous said...

yes - it's called dry loop dsl and it's a PIA to provision.

with all of the rbocs - the billing systems are built around your home number, otherwise known as your Billing Telephone Number or BTN.

when you order dry loop dsl - you're eliminating the only means the phone co has to bill you for your service.

try to understand - the billing and provisioning systems for the telcos were all designed before Judge Green ordered the breakup of Ma Bell.

providing and billing any sort of service required a BTN. with deregulation came FCC mandates - the most recent of which requires telcos to offer dry loop services.

it's sort of like telling your bank you no longer want a checking account number but still want to write checks on your account.

without the voice line from the local telco, you're basically ordering a point-to-point circuit that has a dsl carrier and timing on it.

when you have a voice line and order dsl - essentially the phone co looks up the cable and pair that your voice service is on and cross connects it to the DSLAM.

when you disco your voice service and just go with dsl - the telco has to disconnect your cable and pair from the voice equipment in the co, hence the term dry loop or dry pair.

this dry pair is then connected to the dslam to provide your dsl service.

since there's no longer any BTN to bill your monthy service, just a circuit number - billing is accomplished by billing a credit card on a monthly basis.

since this type of work is done thru the deregulated portion of the telco with different billing sytems, it's not a quick process.

and it's not the moneymaker that everyone thinks it is because of the extra work involved just provisioning the service and the loss of the voice revenue which basically acts as a subsidy.

Steven Gould said...

So are the anonymouti the same person or different persons?

Anonymous the second, I would contend that, like providing me antiquated service that I don't need (land line), an antiquated accounting system that can =only= find people using a phone number is not the consumer's problem.

A better argument can be made for the preservation of land lines because of 911 services.

Anonymous said...

I don't care if naked DSL isn't the "moneymaker" for telcos its "supposed to be".

If they don't give it to me, I'll get cable, or just keep leeching off my neighbor's wifi.

Their choice:

- no naked DSL: they collect $0/mo from me
- naked DSL: they collect > $0/mo from me.

I live completely off wireless. It's up to the POTS telco to actually provide some value at an attractive price.

Jason said...

Where I live (SE Virginia), you really get nickel-and-dimed on any land-line account. The local gov'ts use various utility surcharges and fees to surreptitiously recoup monies lost to the public's irrational aversion to property tax, and the telcos seem to hide expense in these fees as well. Would switching to naked DSL potentially eliminate any of the following?

- Federal Excise Tax
- LNP Surcharge
- USF Interstate Toll
- USF Line Charge
- End User Access Fee
- Relay Surcharge
- Emergency 911 Surcharge
- Local Surcharge
- Utility Users Tax

Alex MacKinnon said...

In Verizon areas. See if Verizon Enhanced Communities or Verizon Avenue is available. This is a dry loop DSL service that papa VZ has released on the MDU (apartments) of the world.

Anonymous said...

with all of the rbocs - the billing systems are built around your home number, otherwise known as your Billing Telephone Number or BTN.

when you order dry loop dsl - you're eliminating the only means the phone co has to bill you for your service.

This is silly. All telcos have access to a pool of fictitious TNs which are assigned to any product that doesn't have a voice product associated with it.

Any telco that handles commercial service (which is any telco that wants to make money) already offers data-only services, like data-only DSL or direct interface T1s. These services are all tracked and billed using fictitious TNs.

The real reason CLECs (and, more than likely, ALL telcos) make it hard to eliminate the voice service, is because that is the one thing keeping residential service profitable. CLECs pay the ever-increasing wholesale rates for access to the ILECs infrastructure, and it just isn't profitable to offer featureless service -- especially with the ILECs continually undercutting prices and selling residential service at a loss to drive out competition.

If the CLECs and the ILECs weren't required to offer residential service, they probably wouldn't - residential service is barely break-even as it is. Telcos only want to provide your residential service because you're more likely to go with them for your business service, as well, which is where the real money is.

First, since it's technically a new DSL service if you do this, you qualify for promotions and rebates as a new customer.

I'd be surprised if this works. You're not really a new customer, are you? If you move, it's technically new service, but it doesn't mean you're a new customer. If you upgrade your DSL speed, it's new service, but you're not a new customer, etc..

What's really giving them nightmares is that a lot of cities are starting to wire up to provide ubiquitous high-speed wireless, with the miniscule cost rolled into your municipal fees. Telco lobbyists have been feverishly bribing politicians to prevent this for the past year or so.

Who do you think provides the wireless service to the cities? It doesn't just magically appear.

rarin2go said...

I wish someone would write a HOWTO "ditch your landline but keep your DirecTV." The DTV customer agreement requires subscribes to be "continually connected to a landbased phone line." If you don't do this, you cannot watch PPV movies/events and cannot get your box reprogrammed if something goes haywire. This is now the only reason I still have a landbased phone line, so it effectively adds $25 a month to the cost of my DirecTV service. Grr.

Anonymous said...

simply swith your direct tv to dish network. they donot require your phone to be hooked up james

Eoghann said...

My neighbor has a Verizon land-line phone specifically for their alarm system and their Direct-TV. It's called their Economy Messaging Service, and it's $6/mo + 10 cents per call. She doesn't even have a land-line phone plugged into it, except for the alarm and D-TV, although she does check for a dial-tone every now and then. In the years we've lived here, she said she's never paid more than $7 or so per month for it, as the alarm company dials in to check the system and she and her husband get their PPV hockey games.

It's not easy to find this plan on the Verizon page, and they didn't volunteer it when she ordered it.

Mike said...

Beware of Verizon's "promises" about its naked DSL service. Verizon strung me along for six weeks with repeatedly shifting dates for installation and activation of a naked DSL service. I was getting letters and emails from Verizon saying that representatives had called, were going to call, or were outside my apartment waiting to install. It was all lies. Finally, a day after someone from the "President's Office" had assured me that service would be installed, I was simply told "DSL can not be provided to you". No explanation, no further attempts. Naked DSL is apparently impossible to provide in the greater New York metropolitan area.

Rory Harper said...

First, since it's technically a new DSL service if you do this, you qualify for promotions and rebates as a new customer.
I'd be surprised if this works. You're not really a new customer, are you? If you move, it's technically new service, but it doesn't mean you're a new customer. If you upgrade your DSL speed, it's new service, but you're not a new customer, etc..

Actually, when I first got DSL, I wasn't a new customer then, either. I already had a landline with Verizon. I still go the DELL rebate.

The Verizon rep made it very clear that you have to terminate both your landline and DSL servies, then arrange for a new DSL contract. This makes you a new customer for DSL. I may not be able to prove this works, however, since I'm leaning more and more to just switching entirely to Skype....

Who do you think provides the wireless service to the cities? It doesn't just magically appear.

I'm not an expert on that subject, but it apparently varies, and isn't the telcos...

Here's one small link on the Texas part of the struggle:

Rory Harper said...

I'm quickly learning to despise Blogger's little comment window. In the post above where I misspelled, please pretend that I didn't.

And it won't let me edit the comment after it's published.

And I haven't manually written HTML for seven years. Why the hell should I have to start again? Where are the damn buttons?

Sorry... this mini-rant is officially OT. I've never used Blogger before, and it feels like I'm having to write with a burnt-charcoal stick. I'm annoyed...

Ran Kailie said...

Companies like have been offering this for a long time. I moved away from verizon and dropped my land line all together.

Anonymous said...

the dry loop referred to has been in use for quite some time. i am with an alarm co. we use them for "direct connects" no dial tone, hence dry. when i fist got dsl way back when that was the way SBC got dsl to my house. Mind you that was when dsl was a new thing.

Anonymous said...

I've had dry-loop DSL through Verizon since May. Two weeks ago my Internet went down, and I called Verizon to find out what the problem was (can't be a late payment since they insist on auto-billing, right?). Turns out they didn't just suspend service, they actually closed the account! When pressed, the rep offered "Maybe another rep gave away your number when opening a new account." He said there was nothing they could do but open another account, and it took 10 days to get our service back. You think they do this to customers with land-lines? Yeah, I don't think so either.

Rory Harper said...

To be honest, Verizon DSL has generally been stable and good for me. Maybe two or three half-day outages in the past year.

I had a nightmare with setting up one of my private clients (I have a tiny IT business on the side) when we tried to set her up with the Westell 1600 modem that they sent. We hooked up a LinkSys WRT54G to it, so she could have wireless, and everything went kablooie.

(Incidentally the WRT54G is the Gold Standard for wireless routers. It's incredibly popular and well-implemented. Not some obscure, off-the-wall device at all.

The theory is that Verizon only hands out one IP address at a time, and the Westell had picked it up. The address was tied to the MAC number of the device.

You have to set the Westell into 'bridging mode' and have the signal pass through and give the IP number to the router. They had something like a four-hour timeout period before the original IP setting would be released, but even that didn't seem to work.

I spent a couple of hours tryng to figure it all out, and talking to various Verizon techs (who were invariably courteous and professional) before getting to one who basically said, 'Yeah, it's looking like the Westell modems won't work with that router'.

We ended up a week later talking, rather angrily, with a Customer Service rep, and demanding, and getting, a free upgrade to their DSL modem with built-in wireless. That one was easy to set up and has worked flawlessly ever since.

I have no idea whether Verizon continues to use the Westell or has fixed this issue.

mikael said...

get this, I just bought a brand new condo in illinois and they can not get dsl or cable to my condo. Damn people. I contacted verizon and they said that they have the dsl space but it is reserved for other companies and guess what none in my town. I have been going around and around with mediacom and verizon since the cable is offered across the street but not in my complex. 30 plus people have to use direct tv yuckkkk. looks like i am going to have to go with verizon wireless fun fun

Xeelee said...

Here it goes... I'm an agent of Verizon Online tech support, so I feel I know my way around all this.

Verizon does offer dry loop DSL service but will not advertise it for obvious reasons (make profits off residential local phone service). Same goes for getting DSL service through another company. Should you want DSL service through another company you will need local phone service from Verizon. I know it sucks, but that's the way they set it up and that's how it will be in the foreseeable future.

Most people who order dry loop service never have any problems... but when they do problems most often are at installation time. Often the circuit ends up having to be reinstalled. No idea why is this, you'd be surprised at the lack of communications between Verizon Online (dsl provider) and Verizon (telco). Yes, there are stupid agents who will not troubleshoot properly and the guys at central office will just close the trouble ticket; when this happens... guess what. Bite the bullet and do it again it's not that hard. Screaming at me(the agent) that you want something done now will just annoy me and make things harder for you, since I'll probably transfer you to a supervisor. Those guys make their living getting yelled at so it will that much harder to get something from them in a timely manner.

For the people who get it working on the first time, they should have no issues. Maybe an outage now and then, but no more than that.

@rory harper.
I'm not sure why you had so many issues setting up the router. Myself what I do is>
1. Connect router to modem and computers to router
2. Login to router, configure PPPoE
3. Reset modem.
4. Power cycle everything, computer included
5. Power up (in order): modem, router, computer
Router auths PPP session through the dslmodem. Personally I prefer people get a 3rd party router. That way if the modem dies they will at least be able to network their computers together. Verizon provided modem/router devices have some funky settings that you might not be able to figure out unless you call us.

Then there are prices. I currently have no idea what prices for dry loop service are, nor am I interested to know them but I know prices are higher than DSL bundled with local service.

One tip... Verizon (telco) is one company, Verizon Online (internet) is another. Got phone issues? contact verizon telco. Got dsl/dialup/T1 issues? Contact Verizon Online.

Guess they did it that way to reduce overlap, but it does make it harder for the consumer to get to the right people.

Rory Harper said...

Excellent post, xeelee. Thanks!

On the router thing, you described exactly what I did. There appeared to be two catches, though.

First, the Verizon install docs at the time (this was last year) indicated that you should fire up your connection only through the DSL modem first, then add the router to your setup, putting the modem in 'bridging mode'. If you do that, the modem has the Verizon IP number, not the router, and none of your computers connected to the router will connect to the net.

Verizon refused to pass the IP number to the router, since the line would only talk to the device with the modem's MAC number.

According to at least one of the tech reps I talked with, it would likely have been more successful if, the very first time I had connected everything, I'd already set the modem into 'bridging mode' and hooked up the router. This would have prevented the modem from ever being assigned the IP number.

Second, turning off everything for at least four hours, so that the IP number would be released, didn't work, at least in the sense that the LinkSys never picked up an IP number when everything was powered back on after being off for a day.

I still don't know why it didn't work, because it should have. Another one of my clients (who did his own install) had exactly the same problem, using the same router. Both clients ended up getting the Verizon wireless-eneabled DSL modem, and that worked fine.

According to the techs I talked to, the older DSL modem, the Westell B90 exhibited no such issues. I have one, with a Linksys hooked to it, and had no problem with setup. Apparently, the 1600 is much 'smarter' with more complex firmware and capabilities, which may have had something to do with it...

Xeelee said...

Wierd, but it still falls within problems I've seen.

Usually what I have people do is reset the modem and force it to re-authenticate using the "newdsl" username.
Then I log in to the modem, disconnect PPPoE and set up the connection to be connected manually. This works for Westell 2200, 6100 and 327w. The Westell2100(wirespeed) is just a plain bridge.
Proceed to setup everything else as usual.

When people first get their DSL they usually go for a dslmodem/router, since most of the time they feel they won't be able to cope with the extra complexity of wiring the router properly and setting up its settings.

Most of the time I'll help people out with them... but if I figure you are just one lazy bum/bummess who doesn't want to engage a couple of neurons then you're SoL. RTFM.

supergeekfreek said...

I recently left Verizon to a VOIP provider. I also transferred my phone number to the VOIP. Wow! the voice quality is actually better in my area with the VOIP. In addition, I am saving about $250 annually. The initial downfall... I had to fight with Verizon for about 2 hours. I was convinced to add a line in order not to have a 3 to 4 week downtime by goin with a dry loop. Whew! Plus, now when the rep added the new phone number, he stated that the cost of DSL had gone up an additional $5 per month. What a sham! Of course, I did not go wtih the DSL deal over the phone since if you order it online you can get it for only 14.95 per month on a 12 month agreement. If I later go with a dry loop it will only be $5 extra per month from the online DSL monthly price promotion of $14.95 per month. Hence with dry loop it will become: $19.95 monthly! Ok, so here is the deal to have no down time with Verizon... Have a temporary traditional phone voiceline with them then later order a "dry loop" DSL service which is in addition to your current traditional phone voice service which has DSL. Once the dry loop is establisheed then drop your traditional voice service which also had the DSL tied to the phone number.