The problem is easy to state. You have telecos who -hate- DSL (because it's much cheaper than a T1), and who usually have their own (poorly advertised) xDSL service, magically, mysteriously and moronically delaying ad-infinitum ANY and EVERY other xDSL provider on the planet.
(They are also fanaticaly converting as much dry copper to combinations of copper & cable. Even a millimeter of cable in the loop, and you can't run DSL. You =HAVE= to pay the teleco all that extra green stuff for a T1.)
IMHO, this is flagarant denial of service. The telecos lose money by doing their job, so they deliberately don't do so. This, however, probably violates all kinds of terms-of-service agreements, with the customer and the DSL provider. If you sell a DSL provier access to your system, then that provider should damn well get that.
Then, of course, there were the inevitable price-wars, publicity-wars and service-area-wars between DSL providers and between DSL and Cable. Start-ups can't afford to fight cable companies, especially when those cable companies are willing to risk everything to prevent competition.
(How many cable alternatives to @Home do you know? And how can @Home, with a monopoly on the cable market, AND all the cable provided for them, possibly be losing so much money that they're all but bankrupt and are at risk of having their shares pulled? Easy. They must have been dumping on the market, to loose billions of dollars in this sort of time-scale. This would explain why DSL providers have had to charge at a loss, to survive at all, and why they're now not surviving at all.)
If everyone charges at a loss, then the guy with the biggest starting balance wins. That, my dear Watson, is what an unregulated market does. This is why there are all sorts of struct rules to prevent that kind of misconduct.
So, you've a situation in which providers aren't providing, to try and kill competition, and where prices are designed to crush, not create.
The solution? "Liberals" aren't going to like this, but that's just too bad. This is the Dark Side of freedom, where "freedom" is used to crush and destroy, where "non-interference" is a licence to murder the market, in the hope that the murderer will somehow escape their own weapon of mass-destruction.
The only answer to the Dark Force is to counter it with the opposite. One option would be to enforce price-gouging legislation and to create legislation to make telecos legally accountable for ANY delay. (Connecting a wire takes 30 seconds. Adding an entry in a DSL router might take another 30. Tuning the circuit to the copper might take another minute or two, if automated. In short, if a teleco takes more than 2-3 minutes to fire up a DSL line, they're procrastinating.)
However, this requires that regulators and watch-dogs do their work. If they do, it's more by luck than skill. Regulators tend to be too political to be able to regulate.
This leaves the second option, which I prefer but which cheapskates will despise. The Government could always pay people who want DSL, to build the infrastructure themselves. Take the telecos and providers out of the loop, entirely. This would have the advantage that the "Last Mile" problem would effectively be resolved, with those interested in improving that gap having the means to do so.
In short, what I'm proposing here is for the Government to provide "restricted-use" funds to home-owners, which can be spent on copper & DSL, cable & cable modem, or any other broadband technology. But that's it. It can't be spent on hamburgers & booze, for example. But if you can fit it into the budget, whatever broadband you want is yours. The only catch is that it -is- yours. Nobody's running it for you. There's no tech support line. If you want to run the show, then you have to take the responsibility that goes with it.
If you did that, even on a limited scale, how long do you think the price-wars would last? How long could ANY company afford to block or harass, when customers suddenly become totally immune?
You might have gathered by now that I don't like the "free market". That's because its idea of "free" tends to be very, very selective. Free to the heaviest weights. Financial Sumo Wrestling is no way to run a business... ...unless, like Covad, Yahoo@Home, DEC, and numerous others, your strategy is to run it into the ground.