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Verizon to Enhance DSL Service

Verizon will boost DSL speeds and add Voice over Internet protocol to its consumer bundles this year as it looks to sustain its broadband momentum.

During the first three months of the year, the regional carrier added 345,000 DSL subscribers, a 46 percent jump over the same period last year, to give it 2.7 million high-speed users in all.

In a conference call with reporters, Judy Verses, vice president of marketing with Verizon's retail group, said broadband has reached a tipping point with narrowband in the United States.

Citing a recent study, she said DSL is closing the gap with cable broadband. The Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that DSL now has a 42 percent share of the home broadband market, up from 28 percent in March 2003.

"We are on the brink of an exciting era in broadband communications," Verses said.

Verizon will introduce faster DSL speeds this summer. The New York-based company will add a new tier of consumer DSL service with a maximum connection speed of 3Mbps/768Kbps for qualified customers. It's aimed at users who require more bandwidth.

In addition, Verizon will triple the upstream speed of its basic DSL offering for qualifying customers to 384Kbps. The price for this 1.5Mbps/384Kbps service will remain the same as the current 1.5Mbps/128Kbps service -- $34.95 a month or $29.95 a month when part of a local and long-distance calling package.

The company will also introduce consumer VoIP service this quarter, offering it to existing DSL customers at a discount. It's already a crowded field. Carriers such as AT&T , upstarts like Vonage and cable companies including Time-Warner are all rolling out VoIP.

Although the broadband telephony product may cause some customers to drop their Verizon local and long-distance phone service, the company believes it can make up for the lost revenue through DSL, VoIP and other broadband services.

In addition to faster speeds and new services, Verizon will continue to build out its infrastructure. Last year, it increased its addressable DSL market by enabling 10 million new lines.

This year it will add another 7 million through central office improvements and remote terminal deployments.

The company will work with GoDigital Networks, a privately held Fremont, Calif., company, whose technology helps extend the reach and capacity of existing copper networks. Currently, about 80 percent of Verizon's lines can handle DSL traffic.

Pricing for the higher-speed DSL service and VoIP package have not yet been set. Verses said that pricing "will be highly competitive."