FCC hearing on timed charges
Ron E. Goble (ao234@DAYTON.WRIGHT.EDU)
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 09:38:54 -0500
FORWARDED FROM: /community/chat(#41802) From:jknueven(Joe Knueven)
There was a bit of discussion on this subject here on the chat area over
the past couple of days so I thought that you might find the following
excerpted from the Tourbus (a twice-weekly list discussing the Internet
authored by Patrick Crispin, a well known writer in the computer field:
FEAR AND LOATHING AT THE FCC
Over the past couple of weeks, you may have received e-mail letters telling
Many local telephone companies have filed a proposal with the FCC
[The United States' Federal Communications Commission] to impose
per minute charges for Internet service. They contend that use
of Internet has or will hinder the operation of the telephone
At first, I thought that this was simply a new version of the old "modem
tax" hoax (http://www.eff.org/papers/eegtti/eeg_83.html#SEC84) that has
been floating around the Net since *1987*. After all, the current FCC
story has all of the markings of a classic urban legend:
1. It uses official-looking language;
2. It mentions a government agency or an organization with
which everyone is familiar;
3. It contains a plea for you to take some sort of immediate
4. It requests that you forward the warning letter to as many
people as possible.
Besides, according to an article that appeared in this morning's Edupage,
ONLINE COMPANIES ASK TELCOS, "WHERE'S THE BEEF?"
Tired of telephone companies' complaints that Internet usage is
overwhelming their network capacity, the Internet Access
Coalition has released findings contending that Net usage is, in
reality, a bonanza for the Bells. The study found that local
carriers received a total of $1.4 billion in 1995 in revenues
resulting from the installation of second lines in homes, while
spending only $245 million to beef up their networks for the
additional usage. A Bell Atlantic spokesman says the real
problem is that the telcos have no idea when a line will be used
for data rather than voice, and thus tied up longer. Both sides
agree that the ultimate solution is higher capacity networks.
(Business Week 17 Feb 97)
Well, out of curiosity -- and out of a deep-felt desire to avoid studying
for the two major economics tests that I have next week -- your fearless
bus driver decided to call the FCC in Washington to see if anyone there was
willing to talk about this rather explosive issue. Unfortunately, I soon
discovered that the FCC only has one employee, she is a secretary, and her
job is to transfer all incoming telephone calls into voice mail hell. :)
Actually, I talked to some nice people at the FCC who faxed me a 10 page
explanation of what's *really* going on. Unfortunately, the 10 page
explanation was written in "FCC-ese," so I am going to have to translate
their explanation into English for you (and I can assure you that, since I
know *NOTHING* about telephony, my translation will probably contain a few
inaccuracies; if it does, please let me know).
First, some local telephone companies have indeed asked the FCC to allow
them to assess a per minute access charge on the telephone lines used by
Internet Service Providers. Local telephone companies currently charge
long-distance carriers (like AT&T and MCI) an interstate access charge for
the long-distance traffic that travels over their local lines, and the
local telephone companies would like to see this charge extended to include
the high-speed lines that your local Internet Service Provider uses to
access the Internet.
In December, the FCC rejected the telephone companies' request and
tentatively concluded "that the existing pricing structure for information
services should remain in place." In other words, the FCC has tentatively
concluded that Internet service providers should *NOT* be subject to the
interstate access charges that local telephone companies currently assess
on long-distance carriers.
The FCC now seeks the public's comments on this conclusion.
Unfortunately, the "warning" letter that is currently circulating around
the Internet gives the impression that some sort of sinister operation is
afoot here, that the FCC and the telephone companies are trying to sneak
this proposal through without anyone noticing, and that it is up to each
and every one of us to stop the evil FCC.
What garbage. In fact, the FCC has, at least tentatively, REJECTED the
telephone companies' proposal. The FCC is now simply asking you if you
agree or disagree with their decision.
The most disappointing aspect of this whole situation is that because of
the misinformation that has been distributed across the Internet over the
past couple of weeks, the FCC has received 100,000+ e-mail letters, most of
which flame them for making a decision that EVERYONE AGREES WITH! Hands
down, the flaming of the FCC is one of the Internet's most shameful acts
I also discovered another thing about the FCC that increased my respect for
their organization one-hundred-fold. Part of the 10 page explanation that
the FCC sent me states that their "existing rules have been designed for
traditional circuit-switched voice networks, and thus may hinder the
development of emerging packet-switched data networks." Because of this,
the FCC is also seeking the public's comments on the implications of the
Internet and its usage through the public switched telephone network.
Folks, *ANY* government agency that stops and says 'hey, we can ALWAYS use
some more information so that we are better prepared for whatever happens
in the future' has earned my respect and admiration.
By the way, most of the information that I have shared with you today can
be found on the FCC's "ISP" homepage at
If you would like to send your comments to the folks at the FCC (the
deadline for comments about their decision not to impose interstate access
changes on Internet service providers is Friday, February 14th), make sure
that you check the FCC's ISP Web page first. At the bottom of this page
are some pretty specific instructions on what you need to put in the
subject line of you e-mail letter before you submit it to the FCC.
Personally, I'm going to leave the poor folks at the FCC alone for a while.
They seem to be doing a great job in the face of unnecessary (and
There has been several postings of this but they all seem to have some
mis-information in them. Hope this clears things up.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City