updated 4/18/2005 6:10:23 PM ET 2005-04-18T22:10:23

Verizon Communications said Monday that some customers who already subscribe to its phone and high-speed Internet service can drop their local calling plans but still keep their speedy Web connection.

The ability to subscribe solely to Verizon's DSL, or high-speed Internet service, could be attractive to young customers who rely primarily on their wireless plan for phone calls. It could also appeal to customers who want to try out new Internet-calling technology.

Initially, the availability of "naked DSL" will be limited to customers in the New York company's old Northeastern territory once served by Nynex or Bell Atlantic, the predecessor companies of Verizon. And only customers who already receive phone and high-speed Internet access from Verizon would be eligible.

Tom Tauke, a senior Verizon executive, said stand-alone DSL would eventually be expanded to all of Verizon's territory and be available to anyone, regardless of whether they are a current customer. He said technical issues limited the company to a partial rollout.

Last year, Qwest Communications International Inc. became the first Baby Bell local phone company to offer the service, in Denver.

Other phone companies have since come under pressure to do the same. Consumer advocates have expressed concern that the big Bell phone companies could use their near-monopolies on local service to extend their dominance over the high-speed Internet market.

Phone executives worry that cable companies will continue to siphon off more phone customers unless the industry shows greater flexibility. Cable companies are increasingly adding phone plans to an array of services that includes high-speed Internet access.

Verizon customers who want to receive stand-alone DSL can simply drop their landline phone connection or switch to an Internet-calling plan provided by smaller companies such as Vonage or big one like AT&T Corp. Verizon also offers an Internet-phone plan.

Tauke did not give out a price for naked DSL. Most residents who now subscribe to Verizon's speedy Internet service pay $30 to $35 a month, depending on which plan they chose.

Naked DSL became available to customers in the Northeast on Monday.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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