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Does Covad use Verizon?

For you telecom mavens out there. If you buy DSL service in New York from Covad, aren't they just going to get Verizon to install the actual DSL circuit? If so... why is it cheaper to get it from Covad?

Yes, we seem to be in the market for a new DSL provider. And I'm tired of playing the blame game where your DSL provider blames everything on Verizon and Verizon blames everything on the DSL provider, so I'd be willing to pay the monopoly tax if it meant when our DSL went down there was nobody left to blame. If you know whether Covad uses Verizon, I'd like to hear!

Joel Spolsky
Friday, November 7, 2003

whoa! thought this problem was done and over with....

will find out and let you know.

Prakash S
Friday, November 7, 2003

I setup a client (a few doors down from your building actually - at 505 8th Ave) a few years back using UUNET/Worldcomm and UUNet used Covad to setup the circuit.  It's my understanding that Covad maintains their own Redback equipment at the local office (which is on 35th Street I believe - so don't let them BS you about distance from the CO - my client pays 0$ for the circuit).  Personally, I'd avoid all this nonsense if I were you and go with SpeakEasy.  I've been using them from my home for over a year quite happily with minimal disruption and almost always with some advanced notice. 

Ankush Narula
Friday, November 7, 2003

Well, unless they've run their own copper, everyone uses Verizon (or whoever the local ILEC is).  You don't see competing ILECs very often, though it does happen occasionally. 

Why's it cheaper?  Well, with ADSL the loop cost, that is, the cost to paid to Verizon by your DSL provider, is going to be pretty cheap.  It's a bit over 60 cents a month here in Maine, as set by the PUC.  It's so cheap because it's just paying to piggy back on your existing phone line.  The rest of the costs are bandwidth, staff, DSLAMs and other network infrastructure.  If Covad's cheaper presumably it's because they're running a more efficient operation then Verizon (or their willing to accept a lower margin).

SDSL has higher loop costs (~$20 here in Maine) because it requires an entirely seperate line be installed at your location.

Andy Turner
Friday, November 7, 2003

It seems Covad and Verizon are involved in a lawsuit.

Apparently due to the FCC Line Sharing policy that allowed for competition to the monopolistic phone companies.

"Further, Verizon is required to maintain line sharing as a result of Bell Atlantic/GTE merger conditions imposed by the FCC. SBC and Verizon, together, account for approximately 82 percent of Covad's line shared lines."

Friday, November 7, 2003

We had similar problems early on here in Atlanta with BellSouth/Earthlink, but they have since worked the kinks out of their systems.  The key to having success with this is to pick an ISP that has a good working relationship with the Bell.  IMO you'll have better results if the ISP and ILEC are based in the same town (Earthlink and BellSouth are both in Atlanta).

If Covad and Verizon are in court, they may not be a reliable match.

Joe Paradise
Friday, November 7, 2003

There are several steps along the way. First, you have to get from your desktop to the phone company's drop box. This is your job. Next, you have to go from your drop box to the CO. In the city, this is always Verizon. Next, you have to go from your CO, through a switch, and route to the ISP. This is typically Verizon, but some CLECs in the city are "facilities based," meaning they pick up the cable at the CO and route to their own switch. Then, there is the operation of the ISP itself, which is Covad or whatever ISP you are using. So, the only physical difference is the portion between the CO and the ISP.

However, there is often a service difference. Most CLECs differentiate themselves via their price and/or their service. However, Verizon would rather have you do business with them, so they give their customers better service than they do for their competitors.

The government mandates that Verizon (or the local bells) sell a CLEC service with a given discounted price. Verizon, of course, hates that. The regulatory pendulum is currently swinging back the other way, so expect things to shake up a bit more in coming years.

I work for a CLEC in the NYC area and we cover Manhattan, but I'm just a geek so this is a very top-level understanding from what I have picked up along the way.

Chris Jackson
Friday, November 7, 2003

Joel, in New York and everywhere else in the US, the Covad deal is the line-sharing arrangement with the local CLEC.  So, there are really three levels of service that you need for any DSL provision-- the physical line level (via CLEC, in this case Verizon), the digital line level (via Covad), and the Internet line level (via some ISP).  Of course, these three levels are often confused by various providers providing multiple levels of service.  A "Verizon" DSL line, at least when we had one a few years ago, was really a {Verizon-Verizon-Genuity} line, where Genuity was the GTE bandwidth provider spin-off.

I've had -excellent- service through Speakeasy ( at several locations and for several years now, and their service is really a {Verizon-Covad-Speakeasy} line for Verizon-covered areas.  In this case, Speakeasy handles the Covad and Verizon line charges, etc, so that you have a "single Speakeasy line" for your DSL, as far as your billing is concerned.  But you can see the {Verizon-Covad-Speakeasy} components at work when the Verizon technician first visits to provision the line, and again when the Covad truck pulls up for the in-house DSL install.

Finally, the tech support you get really relies on all these pieces working together well, with a weakest-link result to your overall experience.  If you already have a Covad line, try switching to Speakeasy (which shouldn't require any changes on-site) before trying the Verizon-only solution.  At least in my experience with them, the actual bandwidth from Verizon/Genuity was truly horrible-- both high-latency and unreliable, with intermittent day-long outages.  In four years of Speakeasy, they've probably dropped my connection for about 15 minutes total across the four years.  And since their bandwidth is powered by InterNAP, it's pretty good BGP routing everywhere you're going.

My $0.02 and change... Hope that helps.

John Stanforth
Friday, November 7, 2003

I wouldn't assume that getting it all from the ILEC will really decrease the amount of blaming that goes on. The telco world is all about blame. :-) Out west with SBC, the different departments within the company blame each other; "Oh, we're sorry, that's a provisioning problem, let me transfer you..."

Is Speakeasy in New York? They tend to be a little more expensive but in all of my experiences they have been spectacular. They offer business-class service with SLA's, and I've never had a problem with them.

Rob Meyer
Friday, November 7, 2003

Here is an *UGLY* part of the game they play.

due to federal telco regs and the way telco's do business
there are really 2 (or is it three) "Verizon" companies:
Verizon Telephone
Verizon Internet

each must by law operate at "arms length"

so if say your line goes off and you call the ISP Verizon and they think that the telco Verizon did it they have to place a work order and then get back to you.

at one point we had this happen to us in FL

the ISP call center was in southeren Ca and the local CO was down the street.
first it was "2-5 days to repair"
then after much hassle we realized we knew a line tech and called him for the low-down, line was back that night.

Denny Figuerres
Friday, November 7, 2003


All the copper in belongs to Verizon. Covad and other CLECs can, theoretically, get access to unbundled copper, but that's problem-prone at best.

Just say no to copper - give the good folks at TowerStream a call - and have them put in a wireless link as a backup at a minimum. Before you protest, what TowerStream is using to provide wireless is nothing like (or as bad as) Wi-Fi. Drop me a note if you'd like to know more.

Steve Stroh
Friday, November 7, 2003

TowerStream looks interesting but rather expensive compared to DSL...

For now I've ordered a backup DSL line from Verizon; if that doesn't go well we'll try that next.

Joel Spolsky
Friday, November 7, 2003


We've used Speakeasy for several years with great successs.  I like the fact that they took care of the Verizon-Covad end of things.  I also liked their tech support.  Anyway, hope this helps and good luck.


Garett Chang
Friday, November 7, 2003

I'm with Ankush Narula!  I've been with Speakeasy for a few years now (I'm in CA) and I have nothing but praise for them.  They have the most competent tech support I've ever dealt with and I've rarely been down (that I know of, although I'm not reliability nut like you) other than for maintenance.

Ryan S
Saturday, November 8, 2003


Sunday, November 9, 2003

Covad is cheaper because technically Verizon supplies the loop back to the CO (at a fixed price) but from there Covad uses their own equipment and services to be your ISP.  Equipment which they got at great discounts when they built out their network and services which are not unionized like Verizon.

I you need Internet connectivity in the northeast (NJ, NY, CT) check out Cablevision's Optimum Online Buisness class.  1 MB up and 10 MB down for $110 per month.  The only issue they need to resolve if fixed IP addresses.  Biz class is currently using DHCP but they plan on trying to get all customers 6 IPs by early next year.

Brian Ford
Sunday, November 9, 2003

Covad has equipment in the local office.  The wire between them and you belongs to Verizon.  If you are getting SDSL (the sensible choice for a business), the wire is pretty much just a wire.  With ADSL, Verizon is likely running your analog (voice) traffic on it as well.

I run SDSL with Covad as my CLEC.  I've never had any fingerpointing problems.  Once, SBC screwed up my line while doing work for a neighbor.  When I called my ISP (a third company), they did a hardware test of the line through some facility Covad had given them.  When the result was that SBC had screwed up, they asked me if I wanted to schedule an SBC visit or let them do it for me.  Very painless.

Reilly Hayes
Monday, November 10, 2003

Many posters have nailed the information, I just wanted to clean up some mistakes.

1) Verizon is an ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier), not a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier). ILECs are the old Baby Bell companies, also known as RBOCs (regional Bell operating companies). They are big and inefficient, but offer the widest array of services.

2) CLECs started to come around in the 1990s, but really went nuts after the Telecom Act of 1996, when massive individual capital from Internet 401(k) day-traders met with massive hype and technological advancements. Everyone thought that new phone/data companies would just spring up, lay down a few thousand miles of glass, and put those old telcos out of business. Well, it's not that easy. Now, the ILECs (and the CLECs that survived) are buying their assets for $0.01-0.10 on the dollar.

3) Covad can be considered a CLEC, but they are mainly just a data provider. They lease lines from Verizon (or whatever ILEC is in the area) and use their own equipment (like the ones in your colocated cages). Their cost structure is significantly less then Verizon's and can thus charge less. However, they also have shallower pockets and can go under much more easily than Verizon as well.

4) ISPs are separate from other providers. It makes sense to pick a facility provider, a connection provider, and an Internet provider wisely. In some cases, getting them all from one place (e.g., Verizon) is great. In other cases, it's a nightmare. You will have to figure this out on your own, but places like can help.

Email me if you have any questions.

Monday, November 10, 2003

One hint:
The best way to use is NOT obvious.

They should have emphasized the link "ISP Search".  Instead, it's in tiny print, under the words "Find Service" towards the upper left of their web page.

After you click "ISP Search", the rest is easy.  You can read lots of reviews of ISPs offering service in your area.

I suggest you create a list of ISPs to check out.  After you have your list, visit each of their web sites and read their "Terms of Service" agreement and the "Acceptable Use" policy BEFORE signing up.  I'm glad I did, as I found a few ISPs put nasty surprises in their contracts.

Finally, I don't know how it is in New York, but in southern California, there are a few ISPs who provide better service than Verizon or SBC (formerly Pacific Bell), even though Verizon and SBC own the telephone wires.

Arnold Woodworth
Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I don't know much about FCC - I don't even live in NYC, but I know a couple of people there who switched to Verizon DSL because of their WiFi hotspots offering. Maybe that's something you can consider.

Tom Marides
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Are you using the DSL for the Fog Creek Offices?

If so... how does THAT work? You spend Hundreds of Thousands of dollars on new offices to be able to recruit thoroughbred programmers... and you force them to "sip" Internet through a DSL straw?

C'mon Joel - pay up for a T-1 or several T-1's to provide acceptable Internet performance to those very good programmers you keep telling us about.

Steve Stroh
Thursday, November 13, 2003

I've had Verison loose all records of my dsl line.  I had alot of finger pointing between my isp and Verizon.  The worst problem with Verison was after spending 2 hours to convence them that I had a dsl line from them, was the two months they told it would take to reinstate service.

Kenneth Parker
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Speakeasy resells Covad and Verizon comes to setup the part of it in your building.  This is my firsthand experience w/ residential SDSL

Thursday, November 13, 2003

A word of warning: if you use a Verizon or one of its subsidiaries, you risk being spamblocked to heck and back.  Verizon is one of the biggest spammer havens on the net and many people just don't want to "talk" to them, or anyone remotely looking like them, any more.

Chris North
Thursday, November 13, 2003

All this talk about DSL. The facts are simple: the local phone companies are not inclined to provide exceptional service levels to customers and even their customer's customers because they have a lock on the local loop.

If I were you Joel, I'd seriously start shopping for T1 or greater bandwidth into your building. I'd call the landlord and ask him if he provides or would like to start providing Internet access to his renters. Here in Atlanta where office space is cheap and competition for renters is high, landlords are going out and purchasing T1's to the building and then splitting it out to the renters as an incentive to get them to rent.

With all the available bandwidth in the marketplace, you could get a dedicated line to the building pretty cheap, especially if you take the initiative and "re-sale" it to your fellow building-mates. There may be a little hassle in the process, but once you get the kinks worked out, you'll only have to deal with one provider.

Just another beautiful idea to ponder!

Herschel Horton
Thursday, November 13, 2003

To answer your question "Does Covad use Verizon?"  -- Yes.

I don't think some of the other replies are quite on the mark on some of the detail.  I will give it a try [I do own a DSL ISP].

DSL Internet service is provided over copper wires that are owned by the phone company (there are exceptions to the phone company ownership in rare apartment and commercial buildings but I will ignore that for this discussion).  However, their are lots of different ways an ISP can get "access to the copper" and cover the "last mile" to reach customers.

What I am calling "access to the copper" means that the ISP packets travel the copper -- however the ISP equipment may or may not be directly connected to the copper.

You have to understand the structure of the phone company "physical plant" (the copper wiring and interconnects in the city).  The phone companies divide every city up in to wiring centers (aka switching centers).  These switching centers are interconnected to a central site for the city.  This is a little bit like the way a larger company might use ethernet in a multiple floor building: ethernet switches on each floor with PCs connected and all the ethernet switches connected to a switch at a central site.  (I simplified and ignored things that don't affect DSL.)

On to DSL specifics:
DSL can be provided 1) on copper dedicated to the DSL only OR 2) on copper that also carries regular analog voice telephone service.
DSL can be terminated A) in the wiring center to a Verizon owned DSLAM OR B) to a 3rd party owned DSLAM.

That is the basics.  It gets tricky to evaluate ISPs: lots of these components have multiple names and many ISP companies provision multiple different ways.

Here are a couple of extreme examples:
1) Covad leases space and co-locates in hundreds of phone company wiring centers.  They then connect right in the wiring center directly to the copper.  They primarily do it with "line sharing" (they use an existing phone line) -- in the wiring center the phone company gets the voice frequency run to the phone switch and Covad gets the DSL frequency run to the DSLAM.  Covad then has to get the traffic from the DSLAM back to their own backbone.  They often lease a large circuit (DS3) to haul the traffic from the wiring center to own backbone.

2) Small local ISP might contract with the phone company or Covad.  The small local ISP would have one circuit running from Verizon (or Covad, etc.) to their office -- this circuit would carry all of their customers.  Verizon/Covad would handle all of the copper and DSLAMs.  The ISP would get the traffic over ATM.

There are many other combinations available.

For your business I would suggest DSL on dedicated copper from a company with an SLA.  Dedicated copper is more reliable and some providers using dedicated copper provide real a SLA.  Dedicated copper takes longer to establish service usually (a new copper line has to be allocated).

I function as a telecom "consultant" and get paid a small residual commission on each account I sell.  I have been doing this 5 years with DSL!  I would love your business.  Since I get no up front money and a small residual -- my best interest is aligned with yours -- I want something that will work and work for a long time!

I represent several providers in NYC, send email if you want to discuss.  Or even if you just have general questions and want to know more about DSL.  I would be happy to give something back, even if no sale is involved.  (I develop some niche software as a second business and I love your site!)

Daniel Diachun
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Speakeasy, speakeasy,

For the same reasons you don't get milk from a cow, long live the middleman!

Josh Mangum
Tuesday, November 18, 2003


This is an easy one.  Get your DSL from...

Best damn technical support of any ISP in the business.

speakeasy rides on top of
covad who rides on top of

You get your bill from speakeasy, who won't blame anyone else., Joel.  Trust us.


Jesse Wendel
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

As another poster already said, unless Covad ran their own copper they purchase physical line access from $copper_owner and resell it to the end user. The reason Covad can often offer a lower rate to the end-user is the same reason that buying one hard drive costs a certain amount but buying 10 at one time yields a lower per-item price. Or, colloquially, "with six you get eggroll." Covad than has a buffer (their discount) where they can offer the same service for less then the one providing the copper.

I have Verizon/Covad at my shop (small business owner) and except for one extremely annoying roadbump at installation, it has been very good.

Friday, November 21, 2003

This is a late post (been on vacation) but I would like to second the recommendation of going with business class cable if it's available.  Gobs of bandwidth for less than anyone else.  I am using Brighthouse Networks (formerly known as RoadRunner) in the Tampa, FL area.  3mb down, 1.5mb up for $250/month.  No complaints about reliability or tech support.

Mark Lawther
Thursday, December 4, 2003

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