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Pac Bell plans major DSL rollout

The telco tomorrow will announce a major deployment of Net access service over high-speed copper phone lines.

Pacific Bell tomorrow is planning to announce a major deployment of Net access service over high-speed copper phone lines.

Pac Bell will start offering DSL (digital subscriber line) service in several cities across California, including clusters in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego, sources said today.

Once the service is rolled out over the next several months, nearly half of all Californians--or more than 5 million customers--will be able to sign up for the high-speed service. And they will be able to sign up using Pac Bell or other ISPs that have the ability to send and receive information through digital subscriber lines.

DSL service would replace dial-up modems or other forms of accessing the Net. With DSL technology, the information flows along copper lines that can be split and used for both voice and data.

ISPs, Netizens, and Webmasters alike have been clamoring for faster access to the Net. While just a decade ago many thought that all anyone would ever need would be a modem that transferred information at 2400 bps, a lot has changed since then. Now 56 kpbs seems slow to some, especially since the Net--and specifically the Web--has become increasingly filled with multimedia and graphics-intensive content that takes longer to view and download.

But the moves toward providing high-speed access have not been especially speedy. Modems can only go so fast and it takes time to build the infrastructure and technology needed, such as cable modems and DSL or T1 lines, for super high-speed access.

Moreover, high-speed access also comes with a high price tag.

As with modems, users pay more for faster access.

Also, DSL service does not include access from an Internet service provider. The subscriber pays one fee for DSL and a second for Internet access.

Prices can be fairly steep. ISPs, which charge an average of about $20 per month for access with a 28.8-kpbs modem, charge upwards of $50 for access via DSL.

And then the user has to pay the DSL provider a monthly fee as well as a one-time installation fee that can run well over $500.

Like most technology, prices will probably fall. But the market today is clearly aimed at the home office and small-business markets that need high-speed access to view the Net, to deliver data to the Net, and to download information.

Pac Bell currently offers DSL on a trial basis--until it gets final approval from the state's regulatory body--in Danville, San Ramon, Walnut Creek, San Jose, Burlingame, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. It soon will roll out service in Pasadena and North Hollywood.

The costs currently are $125 for installation, $610 or $660 for hardware, and $80 to $250 in monthly service charges.

Pac Bell is expected to roll out new pricing that may include a package deal with its Internet service tomorrow.

Business editor Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.