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SBC told to unhook phone from broadband

SBC Communications must sell local phone and broadband services separately in California, state regulators have ruled, forcing a showdown with the telecom giant over forced bundling practices in its largest market.

The California Public Utilities Commission this week ruled that SBC, the state's largest broadband provider, must give its DSL (digital subscriber line) customers the option to switch local phone providers. Currently, SBC's broadband product--called SBC Yahoo DSL--and local phone services are inextricably linked. Consumers can order local phone service on a standalone basis, but they must be phone subscribers to get DSL.

If the order stands, SBC would be forced to change its policies. Local phone lines are the foundation of the company's business, and the growing demand for broadband has helped it defend itself against consumer defections to other independent phone providers, cellular services and cable offerings. SBC is reluctant to separate its lucrative local phone dollars from its growing DSL business.

Not surprisingly, SBC plans to appeal the decision. The company said the order was based on outdated regulations and that previous rulings from the Federal Communications Commission did not require it to offer DSL to customers of competing phone companies.

News source: News.com

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