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Broke DSL provider NorthPoint is ordered to continue service

SAN FRANCISCO — Three days after bankrupt NorthPoint Communications Inc. announced it will shut down its high-speed DSL network, the state Public Utilities Commission ordered the company to restore service to about 40,000 California customers.

In issuing the order, PUC Commissioner Carl Wood said NorthPoint must give customers at least 30 days notice of its plans to terminate service.

Despite the order, it remained unclear whether customers will be back online any time soon.

"We would love to honor the order, but there's nothing we can do," said NorthPoint attorney Michael Olsen. "NorthPoint is gone. We don't have any money."

The order affects only customers in California. NorthPoint has about 60,000 customers in 39 other states, mostly in New York, Massachusetts, Texas and Illinois.

NorthPoint, currently operating under Chapter 11 and in the process of liquidating its assets, said Tuesday it would unplug its service after attempts to secure additional funding fell flat.

NorthPoint's assets are being acquired by AT&T Corp. for $135 million under an agreement announced last week. AT&T chose not to acquire NorthPoint's struggling wholesale business in negotiating the deal.

In mid-January, NorthPoint president and CEO Elizabeth Fetter said a failed attempt to merge with Verizon had put her company in a poor position to continue operations.

NorthPoint has urged customers to contact their Internet service providers for further information regarding their online services.

DSL, which stands for digital subscriber line, is connected to a computer over a regular phone wire, but can carry data up to 25 times faster than a regular dial-up connection.