There’s a bit of a price war going on among the larger DSL providers. SBC has extended its $29.95/month fee until August 31. Verizon discounted its DSL price last month, Earthlink will match telco prices if pushed, even AOL has lowered its DSL price in some cases. Here’s some info and comments from DSLReports.com about the price war.

Typically the discounted price is only available for new subscribers and requires a one-year commitment with a healthy penalty for early cancellation.

It leaves me feeling conflicted on my clients’ behalf. The big providers are offering DSL service that is annoying for my clients and difficult for me to support. Here’s why:

– These DSL circuits are not always on; they disconnect when they’re not being used. (The technical term is “PPPOE,” and it was invented for the sole benefit of the ISPs, who make every effort to conceal its existence from new customers. Take a look at SBC’s description, which is at best misleading – click on Features and read about the “always available connection.” Sounds like it’s always connected, doesn’t it? It’s not.) Connecting is almost instantaneous, so everything is fine when working properly. But PPPOE customers become skilled at restarting their computers or unplugging their modems and routers when the circuit refuses to connect.

– The companies offer inept service – and frequently refuse to talk to you if you’re not using their software exclusively.

– And their software! The horror, the horror! SBC’s deal with Yahoo litters your desktop, your task bar and your browser with icons, advertisements, popups popups popups, programs you don’t want, services you don’t need, and new bugs to bring your computer to its knees. (Here’s the SF Chronicle’s article about SBC’s deceptive marketing and invasions of privacy.) Earthlink’s “Total Access” package is just as bad – see my writeup on June 26.

On its face, Sonic.net’s DSL service appears to be more expensive, at $57.95/month. Only you can evaluate what you’re willing to pay for peace of mind. But you know what? I talk all the time (and send bills) to SBC customers wrestling with their DSL lines. They’re angry. They don’t sleep well. They’re frequently taking medication for stress.

I don’t get called by Sonic customers very often. Sometimes they call to inquire about the kids. They’re usually resting on a comfortable chair in the shade with a cool drink in their hands. We don’t talk about their computers, because their computers are working fine, just fine . . .