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Bell Atlantic expands DSL for Macs

The Baby Bell will expand its support of Apple Computer's product line for its high-speed Internet service after an online campaign sparked criticism of the company's original iMac-only policy.

Bell Atlantic will expand its support of Apple Computer's product line for its high-speed Internet service after an online campaign sparked criticism of the company's original iMac-only policy.

In its initial rollout of DSL, or digital subscriber line technology, Bell Atlantic said it would support most current models of PCs--but just the colorful iMac for computers from Apple.

DSL is an emerging service that allows high-speed Internet access and traditional voice service to share existing phone lines. Telephone companies are in the early stages of rolling out the technology, hoping to catch up with cable modems' early lead among consumers' broadband services.

Due to specific technology issues, it was difficult for Bell Atlantic personnel to set up non-iMac Apple computer models so the machines could identify themselves to the company's ISP service, according to a company spokeswoman.

The company had told some users that Macintosh network addresses were difficult to find on Apple computers other than iMacs. While the iMac carries this address on a sticker inside the computer's chassis, other models require a software program to extract the information from the system.

The Bell Atlantic service needs this address in order to provide secure connections with its DSL users, the company said.

Support staff also told some users that the iMac was the only version of the Apple line that had been tested with the DSL service, and that the other Apple computers needed to be tested before they could be supported by the Baby Bell's ISP.

But these explanations were not given out consistently by support staff, and did not always make technical sense, according to Macintosh users.

Steve Godun, a Macintosh user in Bell Atlantic's service area, chronicled his attempt to get the DSL service--or an explanation why he couldn't--in a series of articles in MacInTouch, a Mac user's Web site.

The article prompted hundreds of angry comments from other Mac users on the Slashdot Web site, which is dedicated to technical computer issues and open source discussion.

In one installment of his series, Godun threatened to write letters to the Better Business Bureau, state utility regulators, and the New Jersey attorney general over the issue.

But the users' campaign has finally borne fruit.

A Bell Atlantic spokeswoman said today that the company will expand its Macintosh support by the middle of February. The ISP will add support for PowerPC computers or clones, as long as they have Ethernet adapters, a Mac operating system version 7.53 or higher, and at least 32 megabytes of RAM.

These requirements cover most modern Performa and Power Mac models.

The company's support staff also will be instructed to handle Mac-oriented questions.

"We are presently ensuring that all of our customer representatives are fully instructed and able to explain why the Mac is not supported in our initial DSL offering, and what steps are being taken to provide support in the near future," wrote Pete Castleton, Bell Atlantic's executive director of high speed products, in a letter to MacInTouch and other Mac users.

"We are also working to make sure that we have a group of field technicians that are specifically trained to install the modem and software on the Mac," Castleton added.

Bell Atlantic's DSL service is still limited to a small number of areas on the East Coast. By this summer, connections will be available in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and parts of New Jersey, according to the company's rollout plans.