DSL Is Like the Erie Canal

Dave Burmaster, my college roommate, is from near Buffalo, N.Y. He makes the Erie Canal up there sound like DSL. Dave Burstein, on the other hand, writes a newsletter about DSL. He makes DSL sound like the Erie Canal.

Burmaster likens the Erie Canal to the Internet. They dug up New York, building infrastructure for boat-to-boat c-commerce among communities dotting the canal.

Luddites worried that buffalo migrating near Buffalo might stampede into the canal. But Erie entrepreneurs buffaloed, "You just don't get it, do you?"

More precisely, oceans were the Internet, and canals were high-speed ocean access.

Later, railroads and trucks doomed canals, just as fibers and wireless will doom cable modems and DSLs.

Burstein's newsletter, DSL Prime, recently reported the doomed US$800-million acquisition by Verizon of DSL deployer Northpoint.

Don't be buffaloed by Verizon Corp., the telephone monopoly formerly known as New England Telephone, NYNEX, GTE Corp., and Bell Atlantic Corp.

Verizon-Northpoint's exciting merger is a buffalo spin. Northpoint's investors abandoned ship after their stock sank 70 percent.

Verizon's DSL has not been going that well. And, of course, Wall Street needed the fee.

Where I live in Maine, east of Buffalo, DSL is provided by the Lincolnville Telephone Company.

Ten miles south, over the Verizon, people use cable modems. Verizon will not offer DSL in that part of Maine anytime soon. They are too busy repainting trucks with their new name.

I worry about telephone monopolies buying up their DSL competition. Might Covad be next, falling to SBC, Bell South, Qwest, or perhaps Lincolnville Telephone?

True, telephone monopolies have been installing more DSL than their competitors. But what would they have done, and what will they do, without such competition?

They buffalo regulators with promises of national competition.

But this goes against 100 years of the conspiracy formerly known as the United States Telephone Association.

I also read in Burstein's newsletter about OpenDSL, an industry herd intending to develop standards for "retail-grade plug-and-play CPE to end DSL truck rolls." They hope soon to match the benefits of cable's DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification).

OpenDSL is welcome, of course. But what's funny is how they avoid mention of previous herds with identical goals.

I thought G.Lite was supposed to end ADSL (Asymmetrical DSL) truck rolls. A draft OpenDSL standard is due, as usual, by year-end.

For more laughs, see www.opendsl.org, www.dslforum.org, and of course www.dslprime.com.

There you'll find ADSL, HDSL (High-bit-rate DSL [T1]), IDSL (ISDN), SDSL(Symmetrical DSL), RADSL (Rate Adaptive DSL), VDSL (Very-high-data-rate DSL), and UADSL (Universal Asymmetrical DSL [G.Lite]).

But you won't find Paradyne's MVL (Multiple Virtual Lines) which gets me 300Kbps both ways and telephone over a single copper pair running 24,500 feet to Lincolnville's central office.

Not to be buffaloed, I use IDC, the market researchers on whose board I serve (www.idc.com).

They say last year ended badly, with 95 percent of residential Internet connections being dial-up modems. That will drop to 55 percent by 2004 -- not exactly a buffalo stampede into the Erie Canal.

Cable modems still lead DSLs in residential deployments, but IDC sees DSL overtaking. What IDC doesn't see is any breaking up of the copper monopoly, say by fiber or wireless. Has IDC been buffaloed?

Anyway, the following are what we need the DSL herd to tell us.

Why does the word "broadband" now go as low as 128Kbps? Why can't DSL call us when it fails, instead of vice versa? Why can't we pay for speed, eventually for usage, so that our DSL doesn't suffer the flat-rate rush-hour slows? Why can't we have static IPv6 addresses for our servers? And why can't we be protected from crackers once our DSL is always on?

Or, as Burmaster often says about certain confused Erie Canal ruminants:

Buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo Bob Metcalfe needs your help in getting his book, Internet Collapses and Other InfoWorld Punditry, into its fourth paperback printing. It's available at booksellers everywhere.

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