First DSL Lines Arrive in Washington Area

ARGH! Slow Internet!
ARGH! Slow Internet!

The Internet connection in the Ghosts of DC house is sucky.

We have Verizon DSL and we are patiently awaiting the arrival of FIOS (what is taking so damn long?). While I was waiting for the latest high resolution image to download, I wondered when DSL first arrived in the area.

It made me a little depressed when I uncovered an article touting the benefits of the new technology that would bring “super fast” Internet into homes in the Washington area. I’m depressed because the article was  from February 22nd, 1996. I am using technology that was cool during Clinton‘s first term to connect to the Internet. That’s ridiculous.

Bell Atlantic sign
Bell Atlantic sign

If you’re a technophile, you’re going to find this Washington Post article amusing. By the way, for you younger GoDCers, Bell Atlantic would eventually become Verizon (a portmanteau of vertical and horizon).

Bell Atlantic Corp. is turning back to its roots — those skinny old copper phone lines running into your house — in a battle against the cable television industry to provide ultra-fast access to the Internet.

The Washington area’s local telephone company is rapidly embracing a new technology that relies on copper phone lines instead of expensive fiber-optic cables to solve the problem of waiting minutes to download a large file or video clip from the World Wide Web.

Bell Atlantic officials said yesterday they will launch a technical trial providing this kind of Internet access — called asymmetrical digital subscriber line, or ADSL — to about 100 users in Northern Virginia in April, followed by a market trial to 500 households in July. If those succeed, consumers may be able to get the service as soon as a year from now, according to chief technology officer John Seazholtz. That would make Bell Atlantic among the first to market ADSL.

ADSL is fast and, unlike fiber optics, relatively easy and inexpensive to upgrade inside phone switches and homes. It works by squeezing large amounts of computer information through phone lines at rates starting at 1.5 megabits per second — about 52 times faster than today’s 28.8-kilobit computer modems. Potentially, ADSL can work as fast as 8 to 10 megabits per second, which is more than enough to simultaneously talk on the phone, watch a movie and switch frequently to a live ballgame.

Seazholtz said the price would be “less than $30 to $35 a month,” the price often quoted by cable operators for cable modem service.

Ugh, now I’m even more depressed. Today, in 2013, I’m not getting 8 to 10 megabits per second and I’m paying far more than $35 per month (ok, yes, I understand inflation).

Also, where’s my flying car?

Oh, you might also find this old post about the history of email interesting.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • I’ll gladly take the Verizon DSL over Comcast…they are the worst, especially in cost. I really do hope Fios comes soon but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I remember when they installed cable in DC and how much of mess that was, I can imagine how much of a mess Fios would be, although I do hear certain slivers of DC have Fios already.

  • ONandOFFinDC

    Our DSL stops working when it rains. The problem isn’t the DSL technology; it’s the copper infrastructure, which Verizon no longer maintains. If all the federal offices here didn’t preclude it, Verizon would dump its copper – just like all the other regional providers have. Right now, it’s putting all its eggs into the FIOS basket. But like a lot of DC neighborhoods, mine (about a mile from the Capitol) will never get FIOS. Instead, some new technology – no doubt wireless – will supersede it. Verizon may figure most of its disgusted customers will come back at that point. Or, it may not even be a service provider by then. After all, a few years ago, Verizon’s then-CEO said Verizon’s plans to focus on becoming a major content provider. DC’s Public Service Commission COULD force Verizon to maintain its copper infrastructure, but it won’t.