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SBC Offers DSL Setup in a Box

SBC Communications Inc. is determined to quickly expand deployment of its high-speed-data product, announcing it has developed self-install kits for regions served by its Pacific Bell, Southwestern Bell, Nevada Bell and Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. telephone divisions.

Further, the kits to aid customers who wish to connect to digital-subscriber-line services will also be available in more recently acquired Ameritech Corp. territories by the end of the summer, the company said.

SBC believes the move will dramatically increase DSL deployment, as customers will no longer have to "wait in line" for installation teams. Waits for appointments today can run up to three weeks. Also, the installation charge is waived for customers who self-install, dropping the initial price point for DSL by between $50 and $100.

The development of the kits is part of the telco's "Project Pronto," a $6 billion initiative to make DSL service available to 80 percent of SBC's telephony customers by the end of 2002.

Presently, deployment is limited by the distance between a potential business or residential customer and a central office. The SBC initiative seeks to eliminate the distance limitations and accelerate service speeds. SBC currently advertises downstream connection speeds of 1.5 megabits per second and 128 kilobits per second upstream to the central office.

The self-install kits are available through Internet-service providers that resell DSL service for SBC. They will set the price for the kit, which is produced by Advanced Solutions Inc., another SBC subsidiary.

The telco estimated that consumers can hook themselves up for DSL service in about one hour, and technical support is available by phone seven days per week. The kits include a DSL modem, filters, software and an instruction manual. If a network-interface card is needed, the consumer may obtain one by mail.

Customers will insert filters in phone jacks to support their analog phones and fax machines and to filter out the DSL signal, eliminating the need for splitters to facilitate multitasking.

Initially, the self-install kit is available for basic DSL service to computers programmed with the Windows 95 and 98 operating systems. Customers utilizing Windows 2000, Windows NT, Macintosh or Linux operating systems will have to wait until the end of the year, when the telco will upgrade the self-install package.

SBC currently claims 201,000 DSL lines in service from 14 million homes and businesses passed. By year's end, homes passed should exceed 18 million, according to the telco.

Also last week, newly formed Verizon Communications' Bell Atlantic Internet Solutions subsidiary cut the price of its "Infospeed" DSL package by $10 per month, to $39.95.

The 20 percent drop matches the current monthly rate that Road Runner andExcite@Home Corp. affiliates charge existing cable subscribers for their broadband Internet services.

"We're in competition with providers of DSL and cable modems. We think this is a very competitive price," spokeswoman Joan Rasmussen said.

One catch: The rate reduction, which went into effect July 1, only covers former Bell Atlantic Corp. markets in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Maine, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.

Former GTE Corp. markets controlled by Verizon-the company GTE and Bell Atlantic formed with their recent merger-continue to charge $49.95 per month for their DSL packages.

Steve Donohue contributed to this report.