DSL carriers seek free phone-wire use

It looks probable that the cost of setting up DSL circuits will drop, thanks

to technology known as line sharing.

Digital subscriber line carrier Rhythms NetConnections has cut an interim

deal to use US West phone lines for free when Rhythms sets up DSL phone

services in any of the 14 states in US West territory.

Although that deal is eye-popping, other carriers have agreed to pay US

West $5.40 per month as the interim price, about one-quarter of the $20

to $25 competitive local exchange carriers (CLEC) pay to use phone lines

owned by regional Bell operating companies (RBOC).

That's a significant saving on a service that retails for about $60 per

month, so carriers could pass the savings on to customers. Whether they

will is still up in the air because the final cost of line sharing has not

been set.

Line sharing is the practice of one carrier running high-speed DSL service

on a phone line while a second carrier supplies regular phone service on

the same line. CLECs argue that because the lines are already in place and

DSL doesn't disrupt the phone service, it costs RBOCs nothing to share the

line, so CLECs should pay nothing.

State regulators nationwide are holding hearings to determine what the actual

costs are to RBOCs and to set a price in each state that RBOCs are allowed

to charge.

Low-cost line sharing should encourage more aggressive DSL deployment because

it is a dramatic improvement in the business case for DSL CLECs, according

to The Strategis Group, a network analysis firm in Washington, D.C.

The Rhythms/US West agreement is more symbolic than concrete because, though

the companies have agreed to the price, they have not agreed to how they

will carry out line sharing.

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