DSL barely suspended as telecom operators stop selling new services

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Are you reading this on AT&T DSL right now? If so, you may need to upgrade or purchase a new ISP soon. AT&T quietly stopped selling new traditional DSLs on October 1, although they will continue to sell their upgraded version of fiber to the node. This leaves a gigantic digital divide, as only 28% of AT&T’s 21-state territory has been built with full fiber-to-the-home, and the company claims to have achieved nearly all of the expansion in fiber-optic. that she intends to do. AT & T’s upgraded DSL offering is a hybrid fiber and copper, where the fiber terminates at the network node closest to the subscriber’s home, and the local loop is always over copper or coaxial.

At about the same time, a report came out co-authored by members of the Communications Workers of America union and a digital inclusion advocacy group. The report alleges AT&T is targeting wealthy, non-rural areas for full fiber upgrades, leaving the rest of the country in the dark.

As the internet has been the glue of this unprecedented period, this news is a slap in the face for many rural clients who are trying to work, go to school and see doctors through various video conferencing services.

If you live in a big enough city, chances are you haven’t thought about DSL for about 20 years, if ever. You might be surprised to learn the popularity of ADSL in the UK. ADSL, the main source of broadband in the UK until 2017, was offset by the rise in fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connections. However, this Ofcom report shows that in 2018, ADSL still accounted for over a third of all broadband connections in the UK.

Why do people still have it, and what are they supposed to do in the United States when it dries up?

What is DSL, anyway?

Regular ADSL and without splitter. Image via The free dictionary

DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line, and it’s basically Internet over copper. Until the mid-90s, many people accessed the Internet using modems of different baud rates, including me. To use the modem, you had to attach the phone line for the duration.

When DSL came out, it wasn’t only faster than the fastest modem you could get at a big box store, you could use DSL and talk on the phone at the same time. Personally, I have never had a DSL. They were expensive, and by the time I was paying for my own Internet, cable modems were gaining popularity in the United States. They cost about that much per month, but are touted as being faster than DSLs. I wanted cable TV anyway, so it made sense.

DSL works by using frequencies above the voice frequencies, so it can coexist on copper with the voice line. In order to prevent DSL frequencies from overflowing and echoing in voice calls, there are analog DSL low pass filters, splitters and combo filter splitters that separate the lines. Before reaching the wider Internet, DSLs are aggregated at the central office in a digital subscriber line access multiplexer, or DSLAM, and then fed into the switch.

DSL flavors

When people talk about modern DSL, they usually mean asynchronous DSL or ADSL. Download speeds range from around 5 to 35 Mbps and downloads average from 1 to 10 Mbps. The asymmetry is in the data rate: download speeds are slower than download speeds, because people generally do more downloads than downloads.

In synchronous DSL (SDSL), the bit rate is symmetrical. There is also VDSL and VDSL2 – two levels of very high speed DSL. VDSL speeds can reach 52 Mbps downstream and 16 Mbps upstream, and VDSL2 reaches approximately 100 Mbps in both directions.

This DSL filter-splitter will keep high frequencies out of your phone calls. Image via Wikimedia Commons

DSL also comes in a “wet” or “dry” form. If you have a wet DSL, the copper pairs carry voice as well. A dry DSL only has DSL. This nomenclature comes from early voice circuits, which required batteries to detect every time you lifted the phone to dial. The dry loop lines were not connected to the batteries and were getting all the power they needed from the central office.

Leave people in the dark

The CWA and NDIA report also accuses AT&T of a “digital red line” in urban centers, which essentially favors the wealthy in cities like Cleveland and Detroit when it comes to building fiber optics. AT&T naturally denies any so-called redundancy activity.

Some urban customers are fortunate to have other options, such as access to cable, fiber or satellite. But many people in rural areas don’t have the luxury of shopping. Where AT&T leaves or has already left, subscribers are obligated to buy from the incumbent cable operator or whatever else is available. They don’t have the luxury of looking for the best deal or even the fastest connection.

Dark copper

AT&T isn’t alone in dropping DSL. Verizon kills it wherever they have fiber service, and no new customer can buy DSL in FiOS territory. A lot of people still rely on old DSL, and it’s a terrible time to put those customers aside. It is also a shame that so much copper is left to rot in the elements when it could be scavenged by municipalities who could use the lines to ensure that every home that still has copper can have some sort of internet access. .

So, Hackaday, are we joining you on the old-fashioned AT&T DSL? What are your plans? If you have DSL and are not affected by it, what do you think? At the very least, DSL is rugged: it will work even on a wet chain.


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