Do-It-Yourself DSL

Ready to tackle DSL? Don't fire your installation geeks just yet.

It sounds so good. All your customer has to do is call, tack a $39.95 monthly charge to his credit card, and hell get instant DSL service. No fuss, no muss, no service call. Does it sound too good to be true? It is. I decided to take Verizon Online up on its offer. Verizon offers both personal and business Internet DSL services. Although I currently have a 384K SDSL connection from Covad and XO Communications, Verizon surprised me with its response to my DSL request. The company said it couldnt deliver ADSL service to my area.

No problem. Instead I had Verizon upgrade a friend to 768K ADSL in Washington, D.C. Verizon promised my friend that the circuit would be ready to go in early December. But just like many other Baby Bells, Verizons work often proceeds at a crawl. Indeed, the line wasnt actually activated until January.

The kit, which arrived in time for the first installation date, came with all the equipment needed for a single PC install. That included: a Westel Infospeed DSL modem, five Excelsus Z-Blocker Dual Microfilters, a NetGear 10/100Mbps PCI Ethernet card, and Verizon Online DSL 3.0 software for the entire 32-bit Windows family and MacOS 7.61 to 9.04 inclusive.

Superficially, the instructions were as simple as those for setting up a Mac. The first step went like a dream; it involved installing filters on all non-DSL phone jacks to keep the high-power DSL buzz from making phones unusable.

However, on the second step I found instructions that installers take in stride—but give naive users the heebie-jeebies. That next official step was to install the modem, but the real next step was to install the Ethernet card. Once that was done, and after my friend had declared that she could never have gotten the card in, it was time for the software installation.

Ah, the software. Theres one point in the installation where youre told to ignore a rather nasty looking error message, and another point where youre told to delete the newly made "Dial your ... DSL Account." I hate that kind of sloppy installation routine, but at least I know what Im doing. Im not too sure Mr. Home Installation would make the right choices.

Afterward, the rest of the install went smoothly. The first online session was something of a problem, though, because the supplied Netscape Navigator 4.73 browser had some out-of-date settings. Again, it was nothing horrific, but it was annoying and could be a lot more than that to someone who doesnt know how to set up Net servers.

Since the installation, the connection has worked like a champ. Getting the PCs dial-up connection to a corporate intranet was troublesome, but thats a Windows issue and not Verizons problem.

Is it easy enough for a user to do? I dont think so. While its certainly easier than the convoluted way we used to set up Point-to-Point Protocol connections with Trumpet Winsock in the early days of the commercial Internet, its really not easy enough for Joe User. For now, installing DSL connectivity remains a job for your top-notch Net technicians—and not for your customers.