Verizon has opted to risk angering some of its broadband users to clothe its 'naked' DSL offer with bundled voice... whether customers want it or not. By Ian Scales.
Dry or naked DSL - where the network operator offers DSL only with no attached voice service - was originally a hard-fought-for unbundling dispensation in the US, enabling users to take on an alternative Voice over IP service (or no voice service at all) without being forced to pay for something they weren't using.
Verizon has now announced that it's not playing that game any more and from now on will universally (and unilaterally) include bundled voice with its DSL and charge more for it - take it or leave it.
The new terms and conditions will only affect new customers or old customers when they want to change their offering - existing happy naked DSL users will be able to continue as before.
How does Verizon explain the change? It says the move is "enabling us to continue providing competitively priced services to existing and new customers.... The vast majority of our DSL customers enjoy it as part of a bundle with reliable home voice and TV service...
By bundling, customers receive a better overall experience and value by having multiple services as part of a package."
Which might be condensed as, "this is just a tidying-up exercise. The vast majority of customers take voice and DSL so it will be much easier for us and our processes if everyone does. And, anyway, it's only $5.00 more per month per customer."
Also, with a bundled service the user can more easily weigh like-for-like comparisons with Verizon's fibre offering, FiOS, which comes with bundled voice and TV - and upgrade (where available).
Verizon's naked DSL currently costs $24.99 per month for up to 1 Mbit/s downstream service. Bundled with voice it costs $29.99 per month. The up to 15Mbit/s costs $39.99 per month without voice and $44.99 with it. Since the vast majority of users opt for the bundle it indicates that the extra $5.00 is unlikely to be a real deal-breaker for many current naked DSL users.
The big bundle advantage for any carrier is the lowering churn factor. In the long term such bundling enables operators to more gracefully transition to becoming more a data carrier, less a voice operator. Partially obscuring voice pricing in the package enables carriers to vest more value in the data access element over time. The key point about the bundle, after all, is that the revenue is trapped there, allowing standard voice service to gradually evolve to become a default 'feature' of the access service, not something customers churn over.
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