What’s In A Name?  Ask Verizon and AT&T About DSL

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 2 comments

As someone who has worked with computers and high-technology for 20 years and as a self-professed generalist, if there is something I can’t grasp, then I fear how tech novices will deal with it. Take digital subscriber line, or DSL, a lower-cost Internet access provided over a phone line by the legacy telephone companies like Verizon and AT&T.

Where DSL is more than sufficient for most Internet users, it has received a lot of negative attention, much of it fueled by the cable TV companies who offer much faster broadband cable service. One of DSL’s drawbacks is that the signal strength deminishes the further you are from the telephone central office in your community. To distance itself from these drawbacks, phone companies have rebranded DSL under different names.

Here’s where the confusion comes into play. Recently I helped 2 relatives get DSL, one from AT&T the other from Verizon. AT&T called its offering of DSL “Broadband Internet” and offered different speeds. I say “called” as when I went back to AT&T’s Web site to lookup the names for this blog post today, they are now calling it DSL! This must have changed at some point in the last 2 months. They call their 4 offerings Basic, Express, Pro and Elite. Originally the confusion was over the name “broadband” as compared to what the cable company was calling broadband. Now they have switched it to what I feel it should be, but this will mean I should make a pre-emptive call to one relative to tell them about the name change.

Verizon offers DSL as “High-Speed Internet” and uses the word broadband in its descriptive information. One of the few mentions of DSL comes in its FAQ when it is describing the Yahoo! software that is offered as an add-on to the DSL software installation. In the case of helping this relative with Verizon, she didn’t know of other Internet offerings, so no explaining to do.

Fortunately my Internet consulting firm Dunkirk Systems does not offer any products or services that need to have their name changed or attributes masked in order to sell them. Granted, much of what I do needs further explanation that their name themselves, and this is something we are very upfront with. Perhaps the DSL providers should band together to dispel rumors about DSL and call it what it is – a decent product for the masses.

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