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A *long* OFF-TOPIC message of importance

Aug 12, 1994 01:37 PM
by bill

        I hope everyone will forgive me for this very long
        off-topic post.  It seemed important to me that, if this is
        true, as many people should know about it as possible.  I'm
        not real fond of cross-posting something as long and
        off-topic as this ...  it just seemed important.

        Thanks, Bill Parrette.



     If you haven't seen this and you are interested in using the
     Internet in the future you may find it of interest to read the
     following and to respond.

     Subject: Metered Usage of the Internet: JSN

     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, < or < Texas
     A&M University, Dept.  of Computer Science 205 HRBB, 862-2084
     (CPSC).  [PGP2 Public Key Available on Request] ---


     - Request for signatures for a letter to NSF opposing metered
     ppricing 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 it 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

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

     If you are willing to sign the letter, send the following
     iinformation 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) facility.

     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


     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 pricing.

     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

     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
     cclauses 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
     iinclude 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
     ddiscussion 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.

TAP-INFO is an Internet Distribution List provided by the Taxpayer
Assets Project (TAP).  TAP was founded by Ralph Nader to monitor
the management of government property, including information
systems and data, government funded R&D, spectrum allocation and
other government assets.  TAP-INFO reports on TAP activities
relating to federal information policy.  tap-info is archived at; and

     Subscription requests to tap-info to
     with the message: subscribe tap-info your name
     Taxpayer Assets Project; P.O.  Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036
     v.  202/387-8030; f.  202/234-5176; internet:


Martin Gordon     $$      VOICE - 717-291-3842
Acquisitions Librarian $$
Franklin & Marshall College    $$      FAX - 717-291-4160
P. O. Box 3003 $$
Lanacaster, Pa. 17604-3003     $$

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