It seems DSL may be (or should be) making a comeback. Several years ago, my family had a SDSL connection from Covad kindly provided to me by my employer. It worked OK most of the time, but installation was somewhat of a hassel and running around between Covad, Bell Atlantic, and my ISP was a pain. It was rather expensive (for my company) and was only around 384kb. Of course, at the time (prior to wide-scale deployments of cable modems), 384k was blazing fast so we were OK with it.

We later switched to @Home (now Comcast High-Speed Internet) which was cheaper than the SDSL, but often had long outages, specifically when the weather outside got hot. In fact, several of the neighbors have experienced the same thing. Calling Comcast Tech Support didn't get very far (after an hour of "reinstall your OS" we had to give up with them - the OSI model would be a valuable concept to some of their techs so when I explain that my cable modem is blinking red it has little to do with my computer, but anyway...) They came out a number of times and never were really able to solve anything.

So recently, we noticed the new ads and rate plans from Verizon DSL. I've never been a huge fan of any big telecommunications company, but we thought we'd give it a shot. The first month is free, and you get the DSL "modem" and such for free as long as you stay for a year. (note that it seems you CAN cancel beforehand, you just need to return the device or pay $99) There was a small shipping/handling fee but otherwise no setup charges. The first month of service is also free, and there is a discount on the next 2 months if you keep it. Afterwards, its about $35 a month for 1500kb down and 384kb up.

It took about a week and a half to get our line provisioned and for the modem to arrive. They did miss their first estimated install date by a few days, but called and emailed us every step of the way. Installation was pretty painless. Unlike our original DSL line, this service came over one of our existing phone lines and didn't require a tech to come to the house. The install kit comes with several filters - you connect these to the other phones on the same phone line. This allows you to use the phone even while the DSL is connected - there is no interference. I hooked up the modem, plugged it in, and a few seconds later it synced up.

Getting connected was a bit tougher as Verizon's activation server was "being updated". Verizon uses PPPoE to authenticate DSL connections, meaning you need a username and password. You basically have to use the install CD to connect to an activation server where you need to select a username and password. This isn't too bad although I don't like to be forced to install special software to use something that should be standardized.

We ended up calling into Verizon tech support and spoke to a tech within 3 minutes of calling. She explained and apologized that the activation server was responding slowly, and walked me through activate through an alternate server. It still took a while (as long as 2 or 3 minutes between each step) but she ensured I got through it and then tested my account. I then uninstalled the Verizon software and didn't notice any ill effects on my machine as a result. I configured our Linksys router to use PPPoE and the computers on our network were online. Overall, it was a pretty easy experience. We are keeping our cable modem as a backup while we test the DSL line during our free month but it looks like we may end up canceling Comcast if the Verizon service continues to meet our needs. Its really nice to have some choices in the broadband market finally!