Dangling Broadband From the Phone Stick


SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 - To gauge the potential consumer impact of the consolidation sweeping the telephone industry, look no further than the silver-toned plastic phone gathering dust on the desk in Justin Martikovic's studio apartment.

Mr. Martikovic, 30, a junior architect who relies on a cellphone for his normal calling, says he never uses the desk phone -- but he pays $360 a year to keep it hooked up.

"I have to pay for a service I'm never using," he said.

He has no choice. His telephone company, SBC Communications, will not sell him high-speed Internet access unless he buys the phone service, too. That puts him in the same bind as many people around the country who want high-speed, or broadband, Internet access but no longer need a conventional telephone. Right now, their phone companies tend to have a "take it or leave it" attitude.

Consumers "are not forced to go with SBC," said Michael Coe, a company spokesman. "If they just want a broadband connection, I'd recommend they look around for people who can provide just a broadband connection."

The nation's other two largest phone companies, Verizon Communications and BellSouth, have similar policies: broadband service is available only as a bundle with phone service.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: And so it is here in Independence, KS also. SBC's attitude is "take us as is ... no phone service, then no high speed internet." The reason that backfired on them around here is due to services like Cable One, we get high speed internet anyway. To show you how sleazy SBC has gotten, the latest offer in the US Mail to get me back now offers monthly service (full service package) for _$2.95_ per month (that's two dollars, ninety five cents) per month for one year. It has been said that in long ago times, the Bell tactic for getting rid of their competitors -- who could not afford such things -- was if neccessary, *give away their service* until the competitors gave up and went away. Are they going to start that again in places like Kansas, where Prairie Stream is fully licensed to do business state-wide, and gradually getting weaned off of Southwestern Bell? SBC for a long time was threatening to get rid of UNE-P but its not at all certain that will work either. So, they fall back on the old 'give it away until we don't have any competition' routine when they have to. PAT]

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Monty Solomon
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