Most High Speed Internet providers assemble their online packages with the expectation that customers want many services with the greatest convenience. Or, at least, they see your desire to upgrade to a faster Internet connection as an opportunity to get you to sign up for every service that they offer.
Some folks, for example, switch all telephone service to their mobile phones. They no longer see the need to own a “landline” (that is, plain old telephone service, sometimes abbreviated as POTS). Or they may be convinced that their voice telephone needs can be met adequately with Internet-based phone services, such as Skype. (Collectively, the phone services over the Internet are called VOIP, for Voice over IP.) If they aren’t going to use an “ordinary” phone service, these people figure, why pay for it?
If you happened to choose your Cable TV service as the best choice for your Internet service, none of this presents a problem. The cable company may try to sell you on the advantages of their voice telephone services, but a simple, “No, thanks,” usually suffices.
DSL Internet and You
However, users who choose DSL services instead of cable-based high-speed Internet have a slightly harder time: By default, the phone company that is probably your main DSL provider expects to use or to install a regular phone line. They will merrily assume that you want POTS along with the Internet connection; in fact, they have to install at least a minimum amount of such service for the DSL Internet connection to work. The key word is “minimum.” The phone company is prepared to charge you for voice service, but it is irksome to spend money on a service that you are certain you will not use.
Fortunately, in most parts of North America, it’s possible to avoid that expense. But don’t expect that it necessarily will be easy.
DSL Internet All By Its Lonesome
When you call your DSL provider to get a price quote for service, the magic term to ask for is “standalone DSL” (also referred to as “naked DSL” and less often as “dry DSL”). Technically speaking, standalone DSL is a DSL connection without analog telephony service — what most people would describe as “without a dial tone.”
Standalone DSL service has been available erratically in some areas and with some telephone companies for at least a few years. But some users report on online discussion boards that their phone companies made the price distinction meaningless, such as charging only a dollar less for DSL-only service than for DSL-plus-phone.
Today, you can expect to find the option available more widely because of a relatively recent agreement that AT&T made with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency that controls the U.S. telecommunications industry. As part of the negotiation for the FCC to approve AT&T’s acquisition of BellSouth, AT&T was obliged to begin offering naked DSL.
As a result, if you happen to live in an area that’s serviced by these companies, you should be able to get AT&T’s standalone DSL service for a reasonable price per month, without needing to buy any other AT&T service, including phone.
Your local phone company may already offer an option for standalone DSL, but don’t expect it to be an obvious choice on its website. Standalone DSL may be a convenient to you, but it isn’t necessarily convenient to them. Most of the “follow the bouncing ball” menus don’t even give you the option of no-phone-service-please. Realistically, if this is something that matters to you, you may need to pick up the phone and speak to a sales agent.
Should it matter to you? If you aren’t sure when you last used your landline phone to make a call, it may be worth considering. Giving up a POTS service means that you probably won’t be listed in the telephone directory or phone book, but for many people, that isn’t a hardship. Plus, depending on your geography, 911 calls may not go to the most-local dispatcher. Also, having a naked DSL line means having no dial tone – so, if something does go wrong with your line it will be harder to determine if your service has been interrupted.
It’s up to you to decide if the cost savings are worth those inconveniences, assuming that the cost savings are significant enough, for your particular situation.
Most people don’t need standalone DSL; they want a regular telephone, too. However, for those with the unique requirement, it’s great to pay for exactly what you need — and not a bit more.