Line-sharing Pact Cuts DSL Costs

FRAMINGHAM (04/17/2000) - US West struck a deal with Rhythms NetConnections that could drive down the price to consumers of digital subscriber line (DSL) service.

Under the agreement, Rhythms will pay nothing to US West for access to phone lines on which Rhythms can run high-speed DSL services. Using a technique called line sharing, US West will be able to sell customers regular voice phone service on the same line that Rhythms is selling DSL.

Previously, Rhythms had to pay about $20 per month for access to phone lines it did not share. Eliminating that cost represents a healthy savings on a service that retails for $50 per month.

Rhythms could not say Friday whether those savings would be passed on to customers, but Rhythms officials said earlier that it was possible.

Other DSL service providers have argued that the cost of line sharing should be nothing, but this is the first time any of the regional Bell operating companies - the owners of almost all phone lines - has agreed to those terms.

The agreement takes effect immediately.

The zero-cost concession by US West came in exchange for Rhythms withdrawing its opposition to the proposed merger of US West and Qwest, a proposal that still awaits approval from the state public utilities commissions in US West territory.

Line sharing is still in its infancy, so this early zero-cost agreement could have an impact on what other RBOCs charge DSL service providers for access to shared lines.

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