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Verizon to require landline as part of DSL package

Move will affect new customers

By Gail Waterhouse
Globe Correspondent / April 7, 2012
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Verizon will require new customers who want its high-speed DSL Internet service to also buy a landline phone connection, a move the company said would allow it to better control costs.

The telecommunications giant told customers this week it would no longer offer high-speed Internet service as a standalone feature. As of May 6, people who want its DSL high-speed service will need to add a landline connection to their account.

But Parul P. Desai, policy counsel at Consumers Union, said she believed the move makes little sense for consumers, many of whom are moving away from landline use.

“This is just another way to get more money out of consumers’ pocketbooks,’’ she said. “Especially when people are relying more and more on wireless phones.’’

DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, is a technology that allows for higher-speed data connections over the same copper wires that deliver traditional landline telephone service. Verizon had offered DSL-only service to customers who did not have access to even faster connections, such as its fiber-optic service called FiOS, or did not want to pay the higher costs of those ultra-fast services.

Currently, DSL-only service starts at $25 per month, while a bundle of DSL and landline services ranges from $30 to $55 monthly. FiOS packages for Internet, TV, and landline services can vary widely, from $55 to $195 monthly, according to Verizon spokesman Phil Santoro. The fastest DSL service clocks in at 15 megabit-per-second for downloads, compared to FiOS download services that range from 15 to 150 megabits-per-second. FiOS can deliver high-speed Internet, television, and phone service over a fiber-optic connection to the customer.

Verizon won’t disclose how many customers buy only its DSL service. But Santoro said that more than 85 percent of the company’s customers buy more than one service in a bundled package.

Existing customers won’t be affected unless they change the terms of their account after May 6, such as by moving to a new location or increasing the speed of their Internet service.

With the growing popularity of cellphones, Verizon and other telecommunications companies have seen a steady decline in the number of customers who want landline service. “In recent years, we have experienced continuing access line losses in our Wireline segment as customers have disconnected both primary and secondary lines and switched to alternative technologies,’’ Verizon said in its 2011 annual report. Santoro pegged the decline in landline use at 8 percent to 10 percent over the past decade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly a third of households in the country no longer have a landline telephone, based on its 2011 National Health Interview annual survey. The numbers are more striking among young consumers: 58 percent of people aged 25 to 29 said they lived in households that have only cellphones.

Verizon does not offer FiOS in Boston, and Desai said there are few other affordable options for DSL in the area.

In December, Lowell McAdam, Verizon chief executive, announced the company had no plans to continue its buildout of FiOS. Mayor Thomas M. Menino last week again asked the Federal Communications Commission to pressure Verizon into bringing the service to the city.

Gail Waterhouse can be reached at gail.waterhouse@globe.com.

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