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Want DSL? Be Prepared to 'Bundle Up'

Time is running out, bargain hunters, to buy (or trade down) to stand alone DSL service from Verizon.

Time is running out, bargain hunters, to buy (or trade down to) standalone High Speed  DSL internet access service from Verizon.

Come Sunday, the only way you'll be able to acquire Verizon's econo-class broadband  is in a bundle with phone service from the operation, kicking up that $25-$40 internet monthly tab (depending on speed) by at least another $10 a month (for just metropolitan local service) and more like $20 for wider calling coverage.

Oh, and if you're now a Verizon DSL customer who has been thinking about quitting their phone plan, that option goes away on Sunday too. So does your right to move and continue to get DSL-only service.

The big losers here are the "over the top" voice-over-internet (VoIP)  phone companies like the wonderous Ooma which performs terrifically (much better than Vonage or Magic Jack) and can cut your telephone bill to practically nothing. Ooma's slick piece of hardware goes for about $200 and, unlike the bargain Magic Jack, does not require you to keep a computer on and connected. Oh, and after your initial Ooma gear investment,  the only fee charged for basic nationwide calling is a few bucks each month in federal taxes. Of course  Ooma will  then try to upgrade you with a premium package that adds a second line and free porting of your current phone number (which otherwise costs about $40).  They also offer bargain international calling packages.

Clearly, Verizon has been losing a lot of landline customers - not only to the likes of Ooma, but also with people who're content just having  a mobile phone number. And in areas where it also offers far faster FiOS fiber optic-fed service for phone. internet and TV. Verizon  is doing its best to convert customers to the new tech, and obliterate the old school copper wire-fed DSL  and phone service. Two years ago, when I signed up for FiOS internet, the sales agent made an offer I literally couldn't refuse to also take its internet-fed FiOS phone service. The two year introductory rate for the bundle was cheaper than just getting the internet!

Just yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission was hit with a letter from 17 interested  companies and groups (from Vonage to Consumers Union,  Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition), asking the commission to require Verizon to halt its plan to stop offering stand-alone DSL. The signers note "the practice of tying broadband service to other services prevents consumer choice, limits consumers from porting telephone numbers and essentially forces consumers to purchase local services they do not want - either because they have a wireless option or because they prefer to use VoIP  or other alternatives. The net effect is to act as a drag on the adoption of broadband and new IP technologies as well as alternative, competitive voice options by making other standalone services economically unattractive."

Did the letter reach the FCC in time? Will the commission halt Verizon's marketing move  before Sunday? "Looks like a question for the Magic 8 ball," quipped Public Knowledge spokesman Art Brodsky.