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AT&T’s secret, cheap web service

It emerged this week that US carrier AT&T has been forced to offer a basic DSL internet service at $10 a month, compared to its current pricing of $20.

The cheap DSL plan apparently forms part of the concessions AT&T agreed to, to get the FCC to sign off its merger with BellSouth.

Unsurprisingly, the carrier seems to have chosen to keep the cheap DSL under its hat, making no effort to publicise its existence.

In fact, the only public reference to it was until recently, a brief mention six paragraphs into the carrier’s residential terms and conditions. Unlike the planning department in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, the carrier didn’t go so far as to mark it “Beware of the Leopard”.

To get the service you will have to be a new customer and must not have been a subscriber to either AT&T or ex-BellSouth for at least 12 months. You must also sign up for at least a year and you must be content with 128Kbps uplink and 768Kbps down. You must also get your steamphone service from AT&T.

So, no leopards, but only just.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital rights campaigners might have been expected to celebrate, but instead, they are calling for the public not to sign up for AT&T’s cheap DSL in protest against the carrier’s role in the illegal wiretaps affair.

It’s not the first time a potentially useful service has been kept quiet by a major RBOC. In 2005, there was a kerfuffle after Verizon was found to be offering so called ‘naked DSL’ – that’s DSL without the funny beige plastic thing your mother calls on – but not telling anyone about it.

Fans of naked DSL will be disappointed that you still can’t get it in AT&T country, although former BellSouth networks will offer it for another two and a half years.

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