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    Rob Pegoraro
    Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro
    Bell Atlantic's Pete Castleton on ADSL

    Friday, September 10, 1999, at noon

    There's ads for Bell Atlantic's "InfoSpeed" service ADSL, short for Assymetric Digital Subscriber Line all over the place there days, from Metro stations to your TV.

    For just $40 a month, the pitch goes, you can get connected to the Net over 10 times faster than your old modem, with no waits to log in. But where's it available? What do you need to make an ADSL connection work?
    Pete Castleton
    What Internet providers support this technology? Are there any security risks associated with having your computer logged on full-time?

    Pete Castleton, Bell Atlantic's executive director for high-speed data services, and I were online from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, to chat about these issues and more.



    Transcript Follows

    Rob Pegoraro: Good afternoon, everybody... if it's Friday at noon, it must be time to talk tech. Our topic this fine afternoon is ADSL, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, a way to connect to the Internet at speeds 10 or more times faster than the slow, disconnect-prone 56-kbps modem you've spent the past few years yelling at. Bell Atlantic markets this as Infospeed DSL <http://www.bell-atl.com/adsl/>; another company, Covad <http://www.covad.com> also markets DSL to homes, and a few other firms sell business-rate DSL connections. Here to discuss this is Pete Castleton from Bell Atlantic. On with the show...


    Fairfax, VA: Given that the ASDL coverage range is SO limited, why is it that it is SO hard to get a more precise deployment information from Bell Atlantic? I'm thinking about moving to an area that has DSL coverage, and cannot find helpful information -other than the the city reference - as in Merrifield-.

    Rob Pegoraro: We get this question a lot; DSL is only available one "central office" (the phone-company equivalent of a neighborhood post office) at a time, which leads to some weird availability patterns. Right now, you can search for DSL access at BA's site by plugging in your phone number, but what if you're in this person's shoes?

    Pete Castleton: We will be available across the majority of Washington Metro sites by the end of the year - in excess of 90%. We do update our web site regularly as offices are deployed.


    college park, md.: What criteria is being used for the giving access to dsl. Why are some areas getting access long before other areas -PG County-.

    Rob Pegoraro: And on a related note... could you give us a general sketch of where DSL is available today in the D.C. area?

    Pete Castleton: Again - by year end we'll be across the washington metro area. Today, we are in 53 central offices encompassing the district, northern va, and the maryland suburbs.


    Fairfax, VA: Pete,
    Does Bell Atlantic have any current plans to increase the speed of uploading for personal ADSL users? It seems to me many people might need the extra upload speed -for large website updates or game playing- and might opt for cable modems instead - 90 kbps -is that correct?- may be too limiting, while the upgrade to the next level of ADSL is likely too expensive.

    Rob Pegoraro: 90 kbps is the current upload speed limit on the basic Bell Atlantic DSL service (with downloads at up to 640 kbps). Covad's entry-level package offers a slower download, 384 kbps, but faster uploads, at 128 kbps. FYI...

    Pete Castleton: This is an area we are investigating. I'd predict we'll have more to say about this in the next 60 days.


    Washington, DC: I have a Bell Atlantic ASDL connection, which is working fine. A techie friend, however, pointed out that with a static IP address and hooked into a LAN, that I'm very vulnerable to hacking. True? What protection does BA offer? I've already turned off, per BA instructions, file and print sharing. But surely that is the bare minimum and laughable protection for even a novice hacker

    A second question, if I'm allowed, is to ask why BA insists on two service calls for the installation: one for the splitter, the second for the ethernet card, modem, etc. installation? That means customers have to be home two half days, which does not seem to be putting the customer first, esp, since, as in my case, splitter installation only took a few minutes.

    Rob Pegoraro: The security angle is important to consider with this, as with cable-modem connections (which are also always on). As for the second half of the question... in NYC, Bell Atlantic now lets the customer self-install the inside connection. Pete, what are your plans for rolling out this option around here?

    Pete Castleton: With a static IP you have the same security issues a business faces with this service. We are rolling out a dynamic IP solution across the region which will reduce many of these concerns.

    We are also rolling out a self-installed product which is currently available in New York and will be coming to the dc area next month.


    Mclean, VA: What exactly does the $40.00-month include? I visited the Bell Atlantic Site and there seemed to be a lot of fine print and hidden costs.
    If I signed up today what would the initial set up cost be?

    Pete Castleton: The $40 is for the DSl feature itself - you need to bring a service provider (eg, ISP). Our package which includes BA.Net service brings the total to $50. Other than that, there is a $99 connection cost and a $99 modem cost. With self-installation, that is it.


    Arlington, VA: I was told by Bell Atlantic that Infospeed DSL is not yet available for my phone number. I was also told by another company that they could sell me the same high-speed access through Covad for the same number. How can Covad do it when Bell Atlantic can't?

    Rob Pegoraro: As Covad has explained it to me: The company puts its wiring into Bell Atlantic's central offices, essentially leasing space there, then rents the "last mile" of wire from the CO to a customer's home. The rate at which they can put their gear into COs isn't dependent on Bell Atlantic's own efforts.

    Pete Castleton: We are deploying widely throughout our footprint - if it is not available in your area today, it likely will be soon. In some cases, other carriers have deployed equipment in selected areas.


    Silver Spring, MD: Why am I having trouble with Bell Atlantic provisioning a line for a third party ISP?

    Rob Pegoraro: I guess I'd want to know which ISP you're working with on this. Pete, what does Bell Atlantic have to do to set up an ADSL connection for an Internet provider besides BellAtlantic.net?

    Pete Castleton: The ISP first needs to connect into our DSL network. It is possible this ISP is not currently connected in the area that serves you.


    Mclean, VA: I understand ADSL is cheaper than ISDN, but what are the differences in performance?

    Rob Pegoraro: FYI, ISDN (oops, too many abbreviations) stands for Integrated Services Digital Network, although many techies insist it actually stands for It Still Does Nothing. It offers connections at up to 128 kbps, but it's billed by the hour, unlike the flat-rate billing of ADSL. This means really high costs for sustained use. Pete, I know a lot of readers have been asking over the years why ISDN charges have been so high. I mean, aren't you using your circuits a lot more intensively when you send 640 kbps of data down a DSL connection? Looking forward, what kind of market niche do you see ISDN filling when ADSL is widely available?

    Pete Castleton: The reason for the higher cost with ISDN, is that it traverses our normal voice switched network - this means it requires the network to dedicate itself for the duration of the connection. With DSL, everything passes over a packet network that is optimized for data traffic - this means an inexpensive, always-on service is practical.

    ISDN will continue to play an important role on the voice side - many enhanced voice features exist.


    Washington, DC.: Will you establish partner programs for Internet professionals who believe that Bell Atlantic's Infospeed currently offers the best workable solution for highspeed Internet connectivity? We have proposed
    your service in several DC area community development projects such as the Shaw Junior High School community CCLC, but have been unable to get any coordination from your local Bell Atlantic business office.
    Secondly, can you establish a sales and marketing arm that will assist consultants in E-rate procurement issues to pay for your services. We design, install, maintain and assist in funding
    community computer access centers and learning programs nationwide. It is our belief that ADSL is currently the best solution to the copper legacy.

    Also, will you eventually offer IP addressing for LAN setups or is it your strategic decision to stay out that part of the business. We haven't found a satisfactory ISP in the DC area which we can recommend to our clients to operate a LAN off of your DSL
    connectivity.

    Best regards,

    R.S.Templeton
    eViation Alliance
    202-986-2884
    eviator-bellatlantic.net

    Rob Pegoraro: Whew... sounds like a marketing pitch but I'll throw that out anyhow, as I suspect there are quite a few home-office dwellers in the room today.

    Pete Castleton: We are certainly interested in these supporting these types of applications - I will refer this question to the appropriate group in Bell Atlantic and get back with a detailed answer.


    Arlington, VA: The advertising on DSL suggests that you can use a DSL line to connect to the internet and make voice calls at the same time.

    1. Does DSL service require the installation of a new line to the house?

    2. Does the $40-month DSL cost cover your local monthly telephone service charge -$25 +--- or are you looking at $65 for both services.

    3. Does Bell Atlantic bundle ISP services with DSL or local calling service costs?

    $. Finally, your DSL reps say I'm too far from the switch to get DSL service. How far is too far, and when can I expect to have access to DSL in the future?

    Rob Pegoraro: Hmm... another Arlington user too far from a switch. I kinda thought that the county was too small for anybody to be further than a mile or two from a central office. Does BA have any kind of directory of central offices available for public consumption?

    Pete Castleton: DSL is a feature that is added to an existing line. So the $40 is an incremental charge to your existing phone bill. A new line is not required.

    With BA.Net service, the total high-speed package is $50/month.

    We currently do not bundle local calling services with DSL, but the trend in the industry is towards packaging, so there will likely be discount offers in the future.

    In the next several months, we'll be introducing extension capabilities that will allow us to reach further out from our central offices. This is an area that we are working very hard on today.


    McLean Va: How well does the Bell Atlantic home wiring package work with your DSL service?

    Rob Pegoraro: This is the home-networking package y'all have been advertising in our Real Estate section, right, Pete?

    Pete Castleton: Since DSL works over a normal phone line, there is no difference in wiring your home for regular phone service or DSL.


    Fairfax VA: How does ADSL expect to compete with cable modems? RoadRunner is only $50 per month, including the ISP, installation is only $100 total, and both download and upload speeds are faster.

    Rob Pegoraro: A-ha! I was wondering when this question would come up, inasmuch as we had a guy from RoadRunner here last month. Pete, care to slam, I mean, critique your competitors' offerings? (My own $.02 worth: Cable vs. DSL tends to be something of a religious issue, depending on one's antipathy towards the cable company and/or the phone company.)

    Pete Castleton: The costs for DSL and cable are similar. The big difference is in performance. The cable modem is like a party line - too many users on it and the service degrades rapidly. DSL is a dedicated service that doesn't have this limitation. For the same reason there are greater security issues with cable. Then there is always the matter of choice - I'm not aware of any cable companies allowing you to pick your own ISP in the washington metro area. We have many choices.


    Washington, DC: When do I get DSL service in my neighborhood? Northeast Washington, exchange 269.

    Rob Pegoraro: Pop-quiz time... this when-can-I-get-it-where-I-live is probably the number-one DSL question I get. (I'll get to the number-two question in a minute.)

    Pete Castleton: We have been in the Brookland CO - 202-268 since July.


    accokeek md: I live along indian head highway in Accokeek MD. I have noticed a lot of cable being put into the ground along indian head highway. I was wondering if this belong to Bell Atlantic. And if this indicate that I will soon be able to get DSL.

    Jim

    Rob Pegoraro: Could be a number of different things, Accokeek, but probably not DSL as this service doesn't require new wires in the ground or on poles. (Hence, unlike many of the other promised high-speed Internet connections, DSL actually exists.) You're probably looking at new wiring from what's called a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier, pronounced sea-leck), a company selling phone and data service to businesses and, once in a blue moon, residences. Unless BA itself is up to something along the highway...

    Pete Castleton: We are constantly upgrading our network, investing $100s of millions each year. I don't have any specifics regarding this particular area.


    College Park, MD: As a college student who depends on the internet and is living off-campus, is ASDL a better choice than a 56K modem?

    Rob Pegoraro: If your budget is like mine was, I'm guessing spending another $50/month on telecom is not something to be done lightly. (Yeesh, there were some months I didn't spend that much on *food*, with the predictable, regrettable results. But that's neither here nor there...)

    Pete Castleton: If you have an ISP today that costs $20/month and you use a separate line for Internet access, then the $50/month for DSL is around a $10/mo. premium, since a separate phone line isn't req'd.


    Rob Pegoraro: One of the issues we've been following pretty closely around here is the choice of third-party Internet providers available with Bell Atlantic DSL (this being one big difference between cable modems and DSL, the ability to go with the ISP of your choice).

    Well, although I now know of quite a few local ISPs offering DSL access, the Bell Atlantic Web page listing them is horribly out of date. Pete, can you tell us what the actual number of partner ISPs is now, and when this page might be updated?

    Pete Castleton: The web site shows what the ISPs provide us. When you call us we will tell you whether your ISP provides DSL via Bell Atlantic. The actual number of partner ISPs is close to 50 regionwide and over a dozen in the dc area. AOL and Prodigy will soon be taking orders in dc, as well.


    Arlington, VA: Is there a difference between ADSL and DSL, or are they different names for the same thing?

    Rob Pegoraro: Short answer: Marketing! Long answer: "DSL" is the generic term for all of these services, which exploit the unused frequencies of regular phone wiring. (You don't want all the details here, trust me...) There's ADSL, which is the consumer variant, then SDSL--Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line--and IDSL (I don't remember what that costs). The important thing to keep in mind is that everything besides DSL is going to be sold at business rates, which means > $100 a month. That gets you performance guarantees, the ability to host a server on your own computer and other stuff that, frankly, isn't worth paying for if you're not making a living off your Internet connection.

    Pete Castleton: The A in ADSL stands for Asymmetric - meaning you get faster download speeds (from Internet to you) than upload. This allows us to provide up to 7.1Mb/s download speeds. The S in SDSL stands for symmetric and these services tend to top out at about 768kb/s in both directions. IDSL is the ISDN variant of DSL and operates at 128kb/s in both directions.


    Olney, MD: Is Bell Atlantic's modem for home use router compatible? In other words can I surf the web on my computer while my kids are online on their own computer, using a single DSL line and modem?

    Rob Pegoraro: Good question, Olney. I suspect that the modem (which isn't actually a modem, but let's not go there) is, but the policies may not be. What's the deal on two computers, one DSL connection?

    Pete Castleton: We expect to be introducing Home Networking products in the near future. Today, customers can hook-up more than one computer, but we don't yet provide all the support functions for getting this up and running today.


    Ft Washington: Two quick ones 1st When will it be available in Ft Wash 265 or 248 areas. 2nd I had ADSL in Cap Hghts -Loved it to death-I moved, still have all of the equipment, I have couple other PC's at home I'd like to get connected. Is it possible to get a multi PC modem from BA or do I need to purchase this on my own.

    Rob Pegoraro: And a related question... What's it cost to get DSL reinstalled if you already have all the gear from a previous install?

    Pete Castleton: I expect we'll be there in the next couple of months - see the above message re: home networking. If you have the modem and it is a self install, then it would be only $99 to reconnect.


    Rob Pegoraro: I've read a lot about "G.Lite," a version of ADSL that will, among other things, let you pick up a generic DSL modem instead of having to buy the particular brand of gear your DSL provider specifies. It's supposed to lower startup costs and make installs a lot simpler. When might this obscurely-named option become available around here?

    Pete Castleton: The availability of G.Lite is largely dependent on the vendors making it available. In the interim, we've introduced a version of our "heavy" product that allows you to install the service yourself.


    Washington, DC: It doesn't seem like you fully answered Rob's question or some of the other questions, e.g. how can we find out where the BA Central Offices are? and why aren't competitive ISPs offering DSL like Potomac Networks listed on your website?

    Rob Pegoraro: Our questioner has a point there, Pete. Is BA's policy not to disclose central office locations? And on the third-party ISP front: I know that, for instance, RocketNet, aka the Pressroom, has been offering Bell Atlantic DSL for months now, and its CEO advertised as much here when he was a guest in this forum a few months back. But there's no mention of the company on the relevant BA page.

    Pete Castleton: We don't have a policy to not disclose CO locations. However, the location of the CO isn't what's needed to determine if DSL is available. The phone number itself is more important - since in some cases a number may be in a CO but be beyond the reach of DSL.

    Again, we update our web site regularly, but can only provide information that the ISP provides us. See above.


    Rob Pegoraro: While we're wrapping this up, an item of FFWD business: Don't forget, next week we are moving to the Business section and expanding our coverage. Like we say on today's page: More info! Same low price! You can also expect to see a new-n-improved version of our page here on Washingtonpost.com.


    Olney Md: Can you make it easier to find out if I am close enough to the CO to utilize DSL? The repair dept said I'm 16,600' of "loop length" from the CO. Is that too far?

    Rob Pegoraro: "Loop length," if I'm translating correctly, means the actual distance the wire travels, which isn't an as-the-crow-flies measurement. It's not too far for some variants of DSL, but is for ADSL as we know it. Uh, right?

    Pete Castleton: There are a number of sites on the net now that will "predict" your loop length. The problem with these is that they perform an "as the crow flies" measurement by knowing your geographic location and that of the central office. However, our facilities don't always take the shortest path between two points - so this can be used as a predictor - but doesn't guarantee the distance. Today, the 16,600 would be too far, but there are products and other technologies that will solve this soon.


    Alexandria, VA: Given the disparity between BA's ISP and 3rd party ISP prices with DSL service, does BA the DSL provider give BA the ISP a discount?

    I've heard that 3rd party ISP DSL service is more expensive due to the fees they must pay to BA.

    Rob Pegoraro: Some of the third-party providers are charging the same ongoing rates as BA--Internet Channel in the NYC area, Potomac Networks here. Install and setup costs may be different though. The underlying point there, though, I think is this: How can we know that Bell Atlantic the phone company isn't giving Bell Atlantic the Internet provider a discount?

    Pete Castleton: All of the ISPs, including BA.Net buy off the same tariffs.


    Rob Pegoraro: Well, it's a little after one o'clock and my stomach is reminding me that I haven't eaten lunch yet. My thanks to Pete Castleton for making the time for this. Hope y'all enjoyed the discussion; we will continue to follow this story in Fast Forward (starting in Business next week, don't forget!). If you've got any questions for me directly, e-mail 'em to rob@twp.com. Thanks, everybody, and I'll see you in a couple of weeks. Au revoir... - Rob


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