Internet not free? $$$

Omy Ronquillo (
Wed, 25 May 94 09:49:27 PDT

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Subject: Metered Usage of the Internet: JSN

Please forgive the mass mailing, but I feel this is a subject which is
of great importance to anyone who benefits from the bountiful resources
of the Internet.

A very bad storm is brooding on the horizon. In the future, you might
have to pay a charge for every E-mail message you send or receive,
every Usenet article you read, every kilobyte of data you transfer with
ftp, every hypertext link you follow with NCSA Mosaic or Gopher...

Hopefully this frightens you as much as it does me. But it will
happen, unless YOU do something about it.

Please read the attached, fill out the requested info, and mail it back
to It also wouldn't hurt to forward a copy of this
to everyone you know on the Internet.

Thanks for your support.

Craig Smith, <bcs@cs.tamu.eduor <>
Texas A&M University, Dept. of Computer Science
205 HRBB, 862-2084 (CPSC). [PGP2 Public Key Available on Request]
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May 7, 1994

- - Request for signatures for a letter to NSF opposing metered
pricing of Internet usage

- - Please repost this request freely

The letter will be sent to Steve Wolff, the Director of
Networking and Communications for NSF. The purpose of the letter
is to express a number of user concerns about the future of
Internet pricing. NSF recently announced that is awarding five
key contracts to telephone companies to operate four Internet
"Network Access Points" (NAPs), and an NSF funded very high speed
backbone (vBNS). There have been a number of indications that
the telephone companies operating the NAPs will seek permission
from NSF to price NAPs services according to some measure of
Internet usage. The vBNS is expected to act as a testbed for new
Internet pricing and accounting schemes. The letter expresses
the view that metered pricing of Internet usage should be
avoided, and that NSF should ensure that the free flow of
information through Internet listserves and file server sites is
preserved and enhanced.

Jamie Love, Taxpayer Assets Project (; but
unable to answer mail until May 15). Until then, direct
inquires to Michael Ward.

If you are willing to sign the letter, send the following
information to Mike Ward of the Taxpayer Assets Project
(, fax: 202/234-5176; voice: 202/387-8030;
P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036):

Names: ___________________________
Title: ___________________________ (Optional)
Affiliation: ____________________________________
(for purposes of identification only)
Address: ______________________________________
City; St, Zip ________________________________
Email Address: _____________________________________
Voice: __________________________________
for verification)

The letter follows:

Steve Wolff
Division of Networking and Communications
National Science Foundation
1800 G Street
Washington, DC 20550

Dear Steve:

It is our understanding that the National Science Foundation
(NSF) and other federal agencies are developing a new
architecture for the Internet that will utilize four new Network
Access Points (NAPs), which have been described as the new
"cloverleaves" for the Internet. You have indicated that NSF is
awarding contracts for four NAPs, which will be operated by
telephone companies (Pac Bell, S.F.; Ameritech, Chicago; Sprint,
NY; and MFS, Washington, DC). We further understand that NSF has
selected MCI to operate its new very high speed backbone (vBNS)

There is broad public interest in the outcome of the negotiations
between NSF and the companies that will operate the NAPs and
vBNS. We are writing to ask that NSF consider the following
objectives in its negotiations with these five firms:


We are concerned about the future pricing systems for Internet
access and usage. Many users pay fixed rates for Internet
connections, often based upon the bandwidth of the connection,
and do not pay for network usage, such as the transfer of data
using email, ftp, Gopher or Mosaic. It has been widely reported
on certain Internet discussion groups, such as com-priv, that the
operators of the NAPs are contemplating a system of usage based

We are very concerned about any movement toward usage based
pricing on the Internet, and we are particularly concerned about
the future of the Internet Listserves, which allow broad
democratic discourse on a wide range of issues. We believe that
the continued existence and enhancement of the Internet
discussion groups and distribution lists is so important that any
pricing scheme for the NAPs that would endanger or restrict their
use should be rejected by the NSF.

It is important for NSF to recognize that the Internet is more
than a network for scientific researchers or commercial
transactions. It represents the most important new effort to
expand democracy into a wide range of human endeavors. The open
communication and the free flow of information have make
government and private organizations more accountable, and
allowed citizens to organize and debate the widest range of
matters. Federal policy should be directed at expanding public
access to the Internet, and it should reject efforts to introduce
pricing schemes for Internet usage that would mimic commercial
telephone networks or expensive private network services such as
MCI mail.

To put this into perspective, NSF officials must consider how any
pricing mechanisms will change the economics of hosting an
Internet electronic mail discussion groups and distribution
lists. Many of these discussion groups and lists are very large,
such as Humanist, GIS-L, CNI-Copyright, PACS-L, CPSR-Announce or
Com-Priv. It is not unusual for a popular Internet discussion
group to have several thousand members, and send out more than
100,000 email messages per day. These discussion groups and
distribution lists are the backbones of democratic discourse on
the Internet, and it is doubtful that they would survive if
metered pricing of electronic mail is introduced on the Internet.

Usage based pricing would also introduce a wide range of problems
regarding the use of ftp, gopher and mosaic servers, since it
conceivable that the persons who provide "free" information on
servers would be asked to pay the costs of "sending" data to
persons who request data. This would vastly increase the costs
of operating a server site, and would likely eliminate many
sources of data now "published" for free.

We are also concerned about the types of accounting mechanisms
which may be developed or deployed to facilitate usage based
pricing schemes., which raise a number of concerns about personal
privacy. Few Internet users are anxious to see a new system of
"surveillance" that will allow the government or private data
vendors to monitor and track individual usage of Information
obtained from Internet listserves or fileserves.


We are also concerned about the potential for anti-
competitive behavior by the firms that operate the NAPs. Since
1991 there have been a number of criticisms of ANS pricing
practices, and concerns about issues such as price discrimination
or preferential treatment are likely to become more important as
the firms operating the NAPs become competitors of firms that
must connect to the NAPs. We are particularly concerned about
the announcements by PAC-Bell and Ameritech that they will enter
the retail market for Internet services, since both firms were
selected by NSF to operate NAPs. It is essential that the
contracts signed by NSF include the strongest possible measures
to insure that the operators of the NAPs do not unfairly
discriminate against unaffiliated companies.


As the Internet moves from the realm of the research community to
a more vital part of the nation's information infrastructure, the
NSF must ensure that its decisions reflect the needs and values
of a much larger community.

1. The NSF contracts with the NAPs operators will include
clauses that determine how the NAP services will be priced.
It is important that NSF disclose and receive comment on all
pricing proposals before they become final. NSF should
create an online discussion list to facilitate public dialog
on the pricing proposals, and NSF should identify its
criteria for selecting a particular pricing mechanism,
addressing the issue of how the pricing system will impact
the Internet's role in facilitating democratic debate.

2. NSF should create a consumer advisory board which would
include a broad cross section of consumer interests,
including independent network service providers (NSPs),
publishers of Internet discussion groups and distribution
lists, academic networks, librarians, citizen groups and
individual users. This advisory board should review a
number of policy questions related to the operation of the
Internet, including questions such as the NAP pricing, NAP
operator disclosure of financial, technical and operational
data, systems of Internet accounting which are being tested
on the vBNS and other topics.

3. NSF should solicit public comment, though an online
discussion group, of the types of safeguards against
anticompetitive behavior by the NAPs which should be
addressed in the NSF/NAPs contracts, and on issues such as
NAPs pricing and Internet accounting systems.

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Taxpayer Assets Project; P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036
v. 202/387-8030; f. 202/234-5176; internet:
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Gary M. Throop
Clarkson University 315-268-3814
Department of Management FAX: 315-268-3810
Box 5790
Potsdam, NY 13699

- --

Alan Peevers, DSP Research Engineer
E-mu/Creative Technology Center
Scotts Valley, CA
tel: (408) 439-0305
fax: (408) 439-0386

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