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Who Really Wants DSL for Life?

Verizon, hoping to kick life into its flagging digital subscriber line business, is offering a "lifetime" price option guaranteeing customers who commit to a two-year DSL contract that they’ll never pay more than their original monthly fee.

So let me get this straight: You’re promising not to charge me more, two years down the line, for what will by then be a woefully outdated broadband connection? How generous.

This offer is a clear sign of a technology on its way to obsolescence. As one cable wag rhetorically asked me: "So where’s Verizon’s rotary-dial-phone-service for life? How about horse-and-buggy service for life?"

I should point out that by mid-2009, you’re going to see cable operators hawking broadband services (using DOCSIS 3.0, a.k.a. "wideband") of upward of 50 megabits per second, or even 100 or 160 — whatever the market will be demanding. 

Verizon’s own FiOS Internet service too is capable of blowing past 50 megs into the triple digits, and FiOS will be a lot more broadly available by then, too. Won’t DSL at 3 Mbps seem positively quaint?

Verizon makes no bones about putting the emphasis heavily on FiOS, as the DSL business starts its long, slow fade. Verizon president Denny Strigl recently told Wall Street that "as FiOS scales up, we do expect to see a reduction in DSL volumes."

But see, it’s all in how you position it. Verizon’s "Lifetime Price Guarantee" for DSL — as low as $14.99 for 768-Kbps or $27.99 for 3-Mbps service – sounds way better than, "Lock Yourself Into a Dead-End Broadband Service Until at Least 2009!"

Verizon here is following the lead of another, uh, innovator: The U.S. Postal Service. The steward of snail mail in April began selling a "Forever Stamp," which lets Americans purchase first-class stamps at current prices (41 cents apiece today) and use them to mail one-ounce letters anytime in the future, even when postal rates go up. 

Hey, you could mail in your guaranteed-forever Verizon DSL bill with a Forever Stamp! I smell a hot joint-marketing opportunity.