* "If your kid is trying to reach 911 in an emergency and is blocked by
*some wirehead trying to download pictures of
* Alanis Morissette, who loses?
02/17/97 - 01:13 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version
Voice phone network jams could drive up Net costs
Surfing the Internet's World Wide Web could become more costly if telephone
companies and Internet service providers
can't agree on ways to improve access and reduce use of voice phone networks.
At issue is the Internet's booming growth: In North America alone, it's
gone from 21.3 million computers logged on at
least twice a month in 1995 to an estimated 56.6 million this year,
according to technology watcher Dataquest. It may
climb to 85.5 million by 2000.
Phone companies want ISPs - and thus users - to pay for accessing local
phone networks and causing the log jam. The
Federal Communications Commission exempted ISPs from paying such access
fees in the mid-1980s to encourage
growth in the fledgling industry. Phone companies say now that the industry
is solid, so the exemption should be
waived. No fees have been proposed yet, but with long distance calls,
access fees comprise about 40% of each call.
Local phone networks were designed assuming an average call lasts about
three minutes. Those using the Internet dial a
local number to gain access, but might stay on for hours.
"When you start having a statistically significant number of phone calls
last an hour and a half, three hours, 24 hours, it
takes $60 billion of investment in the phone infrastructure and puts it in
the potty," said Robert Rosenberg, president of
Livingston, N.J.-based Insight Research Corp., a telecommunications market
"If your kid is trying to reach 911 in an emergency and is blocked by some
wirehead trying to download pictures of
Alanis Morissette, who loses?"
Sprint has not yet formulated its opinion on the issue, spokesman Brian
Craven said. Sprint is an ISP, local and long
distance telephone provider and a major phone network provider for other
ISPs. Craven said an access fee will have a
major impact on the company.
Yet Ron Simon, president of Online Services USA in Fort Myers, Fla., said
telephone companies already make money
through installation charges, monthly phone line fees and equipment sales
to ISPs. Plus computer users often purchase a
second phone line at home.
"They're not suffering. They shouldn't be crying poor," Simon said. "They
should do things to help us. We're a
tremendous source of business."
Simon also points out that AT&T, Sprint and MCI are also ISPs.
"If they charge themselves this fee, it's going to be just an in and an out
on their books. If they charge it to us, we're the
ones who are going to suffer."
Some Internet users aren't sympathetic to the plight of phone companies,
"If phone companies can't get enough lines to meet demand, it's their
problem, not mine," said Raymond Rodrigues, 26,
of San Carlos Park, Fla. "I'm paying them monthly for my phone line. What I
use it for is none of their business. It was
their error in not taking into account the advances technology would bring."
The FCC opened the issue up to public comment. It received 160,000 e-mails
as of Tuesday night.
"The very idea of the FCC opening this up to industry comment indicates
they would much prefer the industry resolve it
without regulation," Sprint's Craven said.
If no solution appears by May, the FCC likely will take action.
"The FCC wants to encourage competition and wants to make sure the network
evolves to most efficiently handle this
data traffic," said Elliot Maxwell, the FCC's deputy chief of the Office of
Plans and Policy.
That would mean faster and better-quality service for Internet users, with
fewer busy signals and faster uploads and
By Larry A. Strauss, Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press
I got two turntables and a microphone...
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