Column: From the Ether: Liar, liar, pants on fire

Too bad that what should be the leading always-on, high-speed, residential internet access technology isn't.

Last year, 10 times more cable television modems (CTMs) were deployed than digital subscriber lines (DSLs). This year, DSL is spreading, but it is tangled in "Digital Subscriber Lies".

I'm not against DSLs, but because its copper lines are in the hands of telephone monopolies (telepolies), I've been pessimistic, and rightly so.

True, I declared Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) Lite dead after the Universal ADSL Working Group (UAWG) turned it over to the ADSL Forum (www.adsl.com). In the very act of thanking UAWG, the ADSL Forum declared it was really the DSL Forum and scheduled its next two boondoggles for Hawaii and Switzerland. Rest in peace.

True, I've warned you about telepolies prematurely choosing ADSL as a standard. There will be many more DSL technologies before we're through.

But, I'm enthusiastic about non-ADSL DSLs. They should be prominent among dial-up telephone modems, ISDN, CTMs, DSLs, mobile wireless, fixed wireless, satellites, power lines, and fibre to the home.

Now, if it's optimism you want, let me introduce you to Dave Burstein's DSL Prime. I read it and suggest you do too. Rally around the DSL flag at www.dslprime.com.

But be careful about Digital Subscriber Lies. Go read, for example, how DSL Prime's estimates of DSL deployment, around 160,000 at the end of June, "are based on company numbers, not arbitrary guesswork". That's reassuring.

ADSL has been a lie all along. The telopolies needed a ploy to get public utilities commissions to grant them higher profits. After ISDN, they promised ADSL for video on demand. After that fizzled, they came up with ADSL Lite.

Anti-Bell activist Bruce Kushnick (www.newnetworks.com) is about to sue the telopolies over their broken promises to deploy the information superhighway. He is alleging $37 billion of ISDN, DSL, and fibre fraud by the telopolies.

Another lie: CTM "party lines" have security problems, but DSLs don't. Have you followed where telephone lines go outside your house? For how long do we depend on physical disconnection for security?

Another lie: CTMs share transmission media, while DSLs don't; so CTMs are slow, and DSLs are fast. This is three lies in one.

First, DSLs do share a medium, namely the "binder groups", through which twisted copper lines wind their way back to central offices. More DSLs per group, more cross talk, slower speeds.

Second, the upstream trunks are the likely bottleneck for high-speed access. DSL providers are just as capable of scrimping on those as CTM providers.

And third, both CTM and DSL providers can substantially boost bandwidth by pushing optical fibres outward to subscribers.

Another lie: CTM providers, especially AT&T Corp, will "bundle" content with their CTM services, undermining our First Amendment rights. Fact is, AT&T's services give access to all internet content, not just AT&T's. I'm with the Federal Communications Commission chairman Kennard and AT&T on this.

Rich Shapero, a venture capitalist deep into DSL, reports that deployers such as Covad, Northpoint and Rhythms are hampered by the inability of telopolies to provision copper for other than their own DSL services.

Shapero says this is not the telopolies lying. It's the residual incompetence of long-term monopolies. He wants the telopolies fully divested. He wants them broken up into switching companies and local-loop companies -- "loopcos" -- providing copper to all comers.

But, the telopolies have already proven to be competent DSL providers. Not ADSL, but HDSL, or high-bit-rate digital subscriber line, providers. They call it T1 and charge 10 times more than they should for it. This would indicate that the telopolies are lying more than they are incompetent.

Well, OK, it's probably too close to call.

Except for his regrettable ISDN period, technology pundit Bob Metcalfe has been hostile to telephone monopolies since 1972, when 10 telopoly executives openly enjoyed an ARPAnet crash during a demo he was giving. Don't bother trying to change his mind at metcalfe@idg.net/

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