View Full Version : FCC Modem Charge Hoax

David Dean
05-12-1992, 07:31 AM
FCC Modem Charges and the Internet System

As the unwitting propagator of Susan Ervin-Tripp's "modem use fees" message
from BIOMCH-L to ANTHRO-L, I took the follow-on messages on the possibility
that this was a hoax quite seriously. I checked out these allegations with
Senator Gore's staff and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Both confirmed
that until last year the FCC had considered taxing private E-mail services
such as Prodigy, MCI Mail, GENIE, and ATT Mail. These taxes on data carriage
would have been passed on to the user. These proposed taxes would not have
affected InterNet or Bitnet users.

Our subsequent discussion of Senator Gore's NREN (Natl Res & Educ Network) bill
has been just as misinformed. Passed last December, NREN lays out Internet's
mission to provide a "high speed backbone" for the nation's communications.
At the regional and local level individual Universities and research insti-
tutions will continue to pay for local access to Internet, usually to an NSF
representative. Internet has been instrumental in setting standards for such
communications. NREN then provides incentives for privatization of other public
and commercial access to Internet. NREN's farsighted goal is to have all
communications, E-mail, telephone, cable television, etc. available to homes
and offices via fiber optic lines from local vendors.

What we hope NREN will preserve is the current process by which the Internet has
grown in the academic community. In many cases, perhaps most, new institutional
connections are subsidized by NSF. It is usually the intention that once estab-
lished the operational funding and billing for these services will be handled
locally, usually by an NSF regional or state organization. What the academic
community must be vigilant about is the Bush Administration's squeeze on
Federal Funding of these installations and continued services, especially at
public institutions. The Bush Administration will push this system too far
if installation and operating funds are unnavailable to public institutions.
In states where the Federal Government has already withdrawn vast amounts of
educational, welfare, highway, and other service support the Internet makes
an easy target. It is more likely that private institutions would be able
to continue to fund their Internet connection. If executed by the spirit and
letter of the law, however, NREN would promote public and private services that
not only will promote freedom of information but also create jobs, infra-
structure, and perhaps even technology export.

Interested parties can contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) at:
(202) 544-9237. Information is also available by anonymous ftp from
ftp.eff.org. Especially pertinent files include: pub/EFF/EFF.about and
pub/internet-info/gore.bill. EFF also has a newsletter, Effector, which
you can subscribe to by writing to the editor at eff@eff.org; leave
your postal mailing address. You can also download backissues by ftp.

David Dean, ABD
Department Anthropology, Graduate School
The City University of New York