The DSL Phase Out: Not a Question of If, but When

Credit: Gigaom

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Princeton residents within 18,000 feet of the town center can choose the option of a Verizon DSL connection to the internet. Because DSL has a maximum speed of 3 Mbps (compared to 50 Mbps and higher for fiber), it is not actually considered “broadband” by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. But, even with its built-in speed limitations, DSL can be an attractive option for town residents who (a) live close to the town center, (b) have modest internet needs, and (c) and want a basic service at the lowest possible price. As a result, if that description describes you, you may have a certain reticence or hesitation with doing anything beyond the status quo and investing in a town-wide fiber-to-the-home network.

However, since the upcoming Nov. 18 vote is all about a long-term broadband solution for our town’s future, it is critically important to consider the long-term future of DSL.

Simply put, when you look at industry trends, it is clear that DSL is eventually going to be phased out. It is not a question of “if”, but a question of “when”. states in their article “Why Verizon is killing DSL & cheap broadband”:

 The slow death of DSL will cause the rapid rise of expensive broadband for underserved areas if Verizon’s Fusion home broadband service is any indication. Verizon launched home-broadband powered by its wireless network — letting consumers trade unlimited slow broadband from a wire for faster, capped and more expensive service…Verizon may have started out as a collection of wireline telephone companies, but it has been rapidly abandoning its legacy copper by selling off its DSL businesses to Frontier Communications, Fairpoint and even the Carlyle Group. The plan, as we said back then, was to get rid of high-cost copper lines and come in later with wireless broadband that delivered better speeds. [Source]

Similarly, states:

 Verizon has been making it very clear that they have no interest in those customers remaining on DSL. The company last year returned to forcing new DSL users to subscribe to costly landline service, and now users in our Verizon DSL forum say they’re being notified that yet another round of traditional rate hikes have arrived. [Source]

BusinessWeek also reports in the article “Hey DSL, It’s Time For Goodbye”:

 Today, AT&T essentially put the nail in the coffin for DSL technology when it announced it was going all-in on IP-based networks and IP technologies. As Stacey Higginbotham reported earlier this morning, Dallas-based AT&T is spending nearly $14 billion to completely switch from last century’s technologies and put its old, copper-based network out for pasture. [Source]

But it is not just industry pundits who are making gloom & doom predictions. In fact, the FCC and even Verizon itself have expressed publicly that the writing is on the wall for copper-based DSL.

The general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission predicts that DSL and landlines will stop working within the next ten years, “abandoned by companies like AT&T and Verizon in favor of wireless service in rural America or fiber (if you are lucky) in the cities.” [Source]

Verizon does say that they have no plans to shut down working service for customers. But, at the same time, Tom Maguire, Verizon’s senior vice president of operations support, is on the record as saying that Verizon has a “gradual phase-out” strategy [Source]. This is especially the case when existing cooper lines go down. As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Tom Maguire underscores Verizon’s unwillingness to invest in long-term maintenance: “If we fixed the copper, there’s a good likelihood people wouldn’t even use it.” [Source]

This strategy is already being carried out in some regions. The Verge reports in the article “Disaster, meet opportunity: Verizon’s plan to push wireless on copper landline customers”:

Last Friday, Verizon filed a proposal with New York state that would allow it to abandon traditional copper telephone lines in favor of wireless service in select areas. Companies like Verizon and AT&T have been trying to leave these old and costly copper networks behind them. [Source]

Therefore, as each Princeton resident considers the Matrix plan and the upcoming Nov. 18 vote, it is important to consider not just what internet solution works this month or this year, but what will effectively service our community in 2024 and beyond.





  1. Vince

    If I choose to have fiber connected to my home (which I will likely do for resale value), will I be on the hook for any monthly fees if I do not activate services? Will I be able to keep my $36/month DSL?

    • richwagner

      Vince, I need to clarify something said earlier. I was incorrect in my initial correspondence on this. Here is the corrected info: if you get the initial fiber hookup, you are also committing to a 2-year commitment of service once the hookup goes live. However, if you do not get monthly internet service, you would only pay $25/mon, not the full amount for a normal internet subscription. Now, if you get internet service, then that $25 fee is included as part of the $95 internet subscription. The reason they are asking for a 2-year commitment is that it costs them more than $250-350 to do the initial hookup (more like $700+), and so the $25 monthly for 2-years ensures that they at least cover their cost. Once again, sorry for the misunderstanding on this issue before. – Rich

  2. Pingback: Getting Ready for Tuesday’s Vote | Princeton Broadband

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