North American Network Operators Group

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Re: ISPs are not common Carriers

  • From: Robert Cannon
  • Date: Mon Oct 02 17:54:27 2000

The FCC's policy with regard to ISPs goes back over 30 years.  In 1966, in a
proceeding known as Computer I, the FCC first asked "what is the regulatory
difference between computers that facilitate communications and computers
with which we communication."  The FCC divided the universe at that time
into pure communications, pure data processing, and hybrid stuff.  Pure
communications is regulated under title II as common carriers.  Data
processing was seen at the time as highly competitive and innovated, with
very low barriers to entry to the market.  There was, therefore, no need to
regulate that industry. Therefore the FCC's policy of not regulating what
would become the Internet was born.  And for the stuff in between, the
hybrid stuff, well, the FCC would just figure it out.

In the 1970s, the computer networks became distributed (terminals began to
get intelligent) and the FCC was overwhelmed figuring out what the hybrid
stuff was.  Therefore the FCC initiated Computer II.  In this proceeding,
the FCC refined its definitions and came up with the basic versus enhanced
services distinction.  Basic telecommunications is where a message crosses
the network virtually transparent to the network - There is essentially no
interaction between the network and the content of the message.  Enhanced
services were pretty much anything else - anything which involved data
processing or protocol conversion or something where the message returned by
the computer is different from the message inputted.  ISPs fall under the
definition of enhanced service providers.

These proceedings did much more than set definitions.  Of course they
declared that what would be ISPs were not regulated as common carriers by
the FCC.  They also set restrictions for telephone company (monopolies)
entrance into the competitive ESP market and exempt ISPs from the metered
access charges (modem taxes) that long distance companies pay.  (I am
working on a Guide where all of these rules as they exist today are set

In response to the CNET article where the challengers say that only Congress
has authority to exempt ISPs from common carrier regulation, it should be
noted that the US Congress adopted the FCC's regulatory scheme in the
Telecom Act of 1996, setting forth the definition of Information Service
Providers which included all ESPs and which are unregulated.

More information about all this can be found at  Look
at "What is the Enhanced Service Provider Status of ISPs" at


>>> Rodney Joffe <[email protected]> 10/02/00 04:30PM >>>

The list seems quiet. In the interests of noise and testing a new
procmail recipe...

The SUPREME COURT has spoken again...

Rodney Joffe
CenterGate Research Group, LLC.
"Technology so advanced, even we don't understand it!"(SM)

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