But BellSouth is taking only a very tentative step toward offering what's known by many as "naked DSL." Rather than allowing its millions of existing DSL, or digital subscriber line, customers to opt out of local phone service, BellSouth will sever that link starting in August only in some markets in Georgia, where it will offer an experimental broadband service using WiMax wireless-access technology.
WiMax is a more-powerful version of Wi-Fi wireless broadband that has a greater geographic range. The trial in Georgia will last for a year before BellSouth offers the service to a wider market.
"What we're doing is kind of like naked DSL," said Todd Smith, a BellSouth spokesperson.
BellSouth's move comes nine months after the Georgia Public Service Commission ordered the phone provider to let customers buy broadband services without a phone service tie-in. The company received similar mandates in Kentucky, Louisiana and Florida.
More than ever, BellSouth's phone customers are dropping their local phone service for cellular phones, forcing the operator to look for new sources of revenue.
BellSouth also is getting in step with the other Bells. Verizon Communications has already started selling naked DSL, but only to new customers, Smith said.