Let's get naked

It's time to stop worrying and get naked. This suggestion didn't come to mind after one too many glasses of wine last night--no, not this time. This time, I got the idea from AT&T. Oh, I'm talking about naked DSL--you knew that, right?

Discussion of naked DSL, like the concept of actual public nudity, is something that makes the telecom industry very uncomfortable. Even if telcos offer naked DSL, they often don't publicize it. Basically, it's the practice of selling customers DSL without requiring them to also purchase wireline voice service. Qwest Communications was the first major U.S. ILEC to loosen the lines that bind, doing so back in 2004. Verizon Communications also has allowed existing customers with DSL to cancel wireline voice service.

Now according to the Chicago Tribune, AT&T's doing it, at least as part of a trial targeted at younger consumers who are ready for broadband, but who are less likely to want or already have wireline voice service. Still, AT&T is playing down its willingness to provice naked DSL, which is pretty much modus operandi for big telcos. They've seemed hesitant to promote this kind of service in the past because they wanted to do everything possible to stall inevitable access line decline.

But the funny thing about the inevitable is that it's destined to happen. Access line losses were steep for some years, and now the decline has become more gradual. Telcos need to take control of their own destiny and realize that wireline voice can't continue to be their lead dog, either as a revenue generator or a sales hook.

In another way, the timing couldn't be better: VoIP service providers are losing their edge, whether via legal, competitive or economic challenges, and ILECs have never had a better opportunity to wean themselves from traditional wireline voice, and instead promote their own VoIP or wireless offerings along with DSL. It's time to bare all. Getting naked isn't anything to be ashamed of anymore. It just make good business sense.- Dan

And, for more details about AT&T's naked adventure, read Jon Van's story in the Chicago Tribune