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'NAKED' DSL SERVICE COMING WITHOUT TRADITIONAL PHONE

"Naked" Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL, service is on the way to Western New York, but it's not as exciting as it sounds -- unless you're really into saving money on your phone bill.

Verizon, the region's major phone company, says it plans sometime later this year to sell DSL Internet service without also requiring you to order traditional phone service -- thus "naked" DSL.

This is good news for people who want DSL for Internet but are switching their phone service to alternatives like cellular, competitive land line providers or to "voice over Internet" services.

DSL is high-speed, or "broadband," Internet that travels over a regular copper phone line, using different frequencies than voice calls. Voice over Internet is generally cheaper than a regular phone bill -- but not if your data connection is a DSL line that requires you to pay for traditional voice service as well.

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that states can't force Baby Bells to sell DSL to nonphone customers. But Verizon is going ahead with plans for DSL-only service to satisfy customer preferences, spokeswoman Bobbi Henson said. If customers switch phone providers, "we would like to maintain that broadband relationship," she said. Verizon has its own voice-over-Internet service called VoiceWing.

The goal is to have DSL-only service later this year; company representatives said they couldn't be more specific. Today, only Verizon's voice line customers can get its DSL.

So why is Verizon taking so long to go naked? "We have legacy systems . . . that revolve around phone numbers," Henson said. Billing systems identify customers by their phone numbers. Also, processes for testing and servicing lines assume there's a voice connection. To handle DSL-only orders, Verizon has to build automated, high-volume routes around the legacy systems, she said.