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'Why not have a go at the cable companies?'

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A group of Silicon Alley cats have drawn up a 'Broadband Bill of Rights' in a bid to make Verizon accountable for the city's dire DSL service.

"Companies are going out of business and we believe, in part, it is Verizon's fault," said Bruce Kushnick, executive director of research outfit New Networks Institute.

Kushnick was speaking at 'Infrastructure Held Hostage: Fixing New York's DSL Problems' in New York last night, where ISPs, trade bodies and politicians turned out to give the telco giant a bashing over its high-speed Internet offerings in the city.

"Verizon's service problems have been well documented," commented Amy Rutkin, chief of staff for Silicon Alley's Congressional Representative Jerrold Nadler. "This issue is of great concern to us."

"We can't afford to fall behind any other area in terms of DSL."

The group said it was tired of a substandard service offered by Verizon, including installation delays and DSL downtime, and that the company to be held accountable.

Verizon's responses to the criticisms involve reeling off sets of statistics. A representative told The Register> the company had installed 95 per cent of its wholesale provisioning of DSL orders on time in December - the remaining five per cent included problems with other DSL providers or with customer equipment.

But it seems this is a regular form of defence from the telco. One of the group's gripes last night concerned these figures, which it says Verizon regularly churns out to deflect criticism.

Who issues these figures? Verizon. And are they monitored or checked by any outside body? No. The group claimed this made them basically useless.

Add to this that Verizon has a monopoly on supplying DSL to phone companies and ISPs in the city, as well as having its own competing DSL service business. Plus, of course, it is a provider of New York's long-distance phone service - so it is not going to be overly keen on its phone customers adopting broadband anyway.

"We want to call Verizon's bluff - we want accurate numbers. If not, Verizon should be penalised for this," said Kushnick, who helped draw up The Broadband Bill of Rights. The document, put together on the fifth Anniversary of the Telecommunication Act, and which the group intends to send to Washington, states the Baby Bells are "still monopolies, and they are unfairly using their market dominance and control of the local pone networks to close out DSL and local telecom competition."

"We believe the Bells' practices are harming America's economic growth, not to mention phone and DSL customers. It is time to enforce the Telecom Act - and amend it if need be - and not let the Bells kill America's Broadband Future," it adds.

Verizon claims it is not entirely to blame - it describes DSL as "a very complex technology", and one that is "in its infancy", saying there are lots of players involved in fitting the service. But if it admits this, why does it market the service so aggressively without being able to keep up with demand?

"I don't think we're putting anybody out of business," said Verizon VP of media relations Eric Rabe, who added that all companies involved in DSL "need to do a better job."

And his response to the meeting? "Why not have a go at the cable companies?"

Kushnick also proposes that if the service is not improved in one year, the copper wiring needed to install the service should be taken away from the Baby Bells and given to a separate outfit.

"Full competition, not regulation, is the best answer," commented Andrew Brust, a representative of the New York Software Industry Association (NYSIAA). "But we're nowhere near that."

"You might ask what right you have to complain about not having DSL. But if other markets have it, and you don't, it puts you at an economic disadvantage."

Anyone wishing to check out and sign The Broadband Bill of Rights can do so here.

DSL users might also want to keep a log of how often their service goes down - www.dslreports.com has a way of doing this online , which can be found here under the Keep a Connection Diary heading. ®

Related Stories

New Yorkers plot DSL protest
Verizon moves to appease Silicon Alley Net anger
Deutsche Telekom probed over ADSL prices
How to make DSL work properly
Verizon sued for crap DSL service

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