Calif. Regulator Backs ‘Naked’ DSL

California utilities regulators now support the availability of so-called naked digital subscriber line -- a move commissioners said they believe would allow new phone competitors to flourish.

But the state Public Utilities Commission did not go so far as to attempt to mandate that telephone companies sell digital subscriber line product on a standalone basis.

“There are many avenues with which this commission can advocate and pursue these policy objectives and this resolution signals that we intend to do so,” Commissioner Susan Kennedy said.

Commissioners expect utility regulators in other states to follow their lead.

The commissioners stated that they believe the practice of telecommunications providers -- which in California include SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. -- of forcing consumers to buy traditional analog television service in order to access broadband offerings stifles competition.

“Allowing the owners of broadband facilities to use their market power to force customers into maintaining old, traditional analog voice service as a condition of accessing a broadband pipe destroys the very concept of consumer choice in the voice market,” Kennedy added.

Though not cited by the commission, an example surfaced in Florida last year. When Bright House Networks launched telephony last June, officials said 24% of new signups between June and August rescinded their agreements when they found Verizon would not let them take their phone number to Bright House without dropping DSL, too. Nor could consumers buy Bright House phone service and order a new DSL account from Verizon.

After Bright House complained to regulators, the state attorney general interceded and earlier this month, Verizon agreed to port numbers and it now offers standalone DSL service.