Preparing For a High-Speed Departure

By Robert MacMillan Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 24, 2005; 9:33 AM

The cable guy came by my new digs on Tuesday to get me connected to the Internet. The first news article that I read when I got online said that Verizon plans to offer high-speed Internet service for almost $30 less per month than what I just agreed to pay.

Caveat emptor.

Some regular readers might wonder what I'm doing getting started with a home Internet connection only this week. And that leads me to the news of the day:

I'm leaving at the end of next week; the last edition of Random Access will run on Friday, Sept. 2. From there, I will take an annual two-week vacation in the Azores Islands; when I return to the States I'll join the business desk at the New York City bureau for the Reuters news wire.

As a matter of fact, I'm writing this column from an apartment in Jersey City, N.J., where I just moved. Stop laughing. It's a nice place.

Of course, it would be even nicer if I had known about the $14.95 Verizon high-speed Internet plan. But whatever Internet service I go with in the next few days, it seems like a good a time as any to do more of what I like best -- engage you, the readers, in discussions about the fun and frustration of the Internet.

During the next several days (except for Monday when I'll be making the most of a three-day weekend) I will try to find stories to write about that focus on the day-to-day highs and lows of the online experience.

Part of that means scouring the news of the world to bring you the stories that you don't have time to look for every morning, but I derive some of the best tales and inspiration from you. Take the time to write me about your concerns and joys, and especially the pitfalls of the 21st century that make you fantasize about what a sledgehammer can do to your favorite tech products.

Did You Say $14.95?

Yes, that wasn't a typo. Verizon decided to follow the lead of SBC Communications, which announced a similar low price as a pilot program in June. The idea is to smack the cable industry, which offers broadband service at rates of about $40 a month. (Bloomberg reported, by the way, that Comcast does offer a $19.99 monthly plan, but this still undercuts that by a few bucks.)

The New York Times noted that the Verizon DSL (digital subscriber line) service will not be as speedy as its usual program: "Verizon's $14.95 service, which uses digital subscriber line, or D.S.L., technology, requires that customers sign a one-year renewable contract. The new service allows users to download e-mail, pictures and other information at top speeds of 768 kilobits a second, or about 10 times the speed of a typical dial-up Internet connection. However, its speed is only about a fourth that of Verizon's other D.S.L. service, which costs $29.99."

The SBC program is faster too, though it's not a permanent program like Verizon's.

Still, the Times reported, Verizon's offering runs 10 times as fast as dial-up access. That's just fast enough to make a discernible difference, but just slow enough that once people get hooked, they'll want to upgrade to faster -- and more expensive -- plans. The bait in this case will be Web video, the paper reported. Only the more expensive DSL offerings will be able to handle the amount of data at the proper velocity to handle fun stuff such as television through the Internet.

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