North American Network Operators Group

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Re: [Latest draft of Internet regulation bill]

  • From: Sean Donelan
  • Date: Sat Nov 12 23:09:02 2005

On Sat, 12 Nov 2005, Leo Bicknell wrote:
> No, this is all pricing.  You can sell "Internet Access" for $10,
> or $20, or $200 for all I care.  It's still "Internet Access".  You
> can discount my "Internet Access" by 50% if I also buy a hotdog
> from you for all I care.  Doesn't change what you're selling.  You can
> sell me faster or slower Internet access, companies never seem to be shy
> about telling you the speeds, doesn't change the fact that it's
> "internet access", and the customer is informed about what they are
> buying.

Google is calling their offering "basic Internet access" and "premium
service."  Is "basic Internet access" different than "internet access?"
Google doesn't really define what they mean by these terms. Google only
gives examples of other web portals such as MSN and Yahoo as "ISPs" which
don't operate their own access networks, not network ISPs like MCI or
Sprint or access ISPs like Verizon or Comcast.  Apparently, first you have
to use Google's home page before you could access other sites.  In the
1990's there were huge battles whether a user first saw the network
provider's web portal or a web portal of the user's choice.  There were
even big battles over whether one company's dialer software interferred
with another company's dialer software.

Verizon is calling their offering "Broadband access." Cablevision calls
their offering "Optimum Online."  Are those the same as "Internet access?"

I see the end result of your proposal is providers would come up with
lots of different private label brand names for their services, because no
one has been able to define with legal certaintity what the "Internet" is
or isn't.

> The better analogy is to the phone company selling "Long Distance".
> If MCI sold "Long Distance", but you couldn't call anyone on Sprint's
> network because Sprint didn't pay the "access feee" then it wouldn't
> be "Long Distance".

If you are familar with how telephone settlements work, you can't call
people on other telephone networks if the networks don't pay the "access
fees."  Generally you can't call directly from MCI's "Long Distance"
network to Sprint's "Long Distance" network, instead you call a customer's
local access line.  You can't call most special access numbers
(1-800, 911, etc) using circuits connected directly to a long distance
network, your PBX usually needs to route those calls to a local access
switch instead of the long distance switch.  Some companies offer both
long distance and local access over the same line, some don't.  At one
time when you wanted to call someone in a different LATA, you needed to
use a different company for local phone calls and long distance calls. If
you didn't have a default long distance company, your long distance calls
were blocked unless you dialed extra numbers.

Further telephone companies regularly block access to some telephone
numbers (e.g. 1-900, 976) for a variety of reasons, some required by
the government. Sometimes the government requires you to specifically
request access to some numbers before being able to call them.  Other
numbers can only be dialed using specific telephone carriers (e.g.
1-700).  If you call a 1-800 number from a public payphone, the operator
of the public payphone paid an additional fee from the current 1-800
subscriber.  Some long distance carriers can't carry calls world-wide
because they don't have agreements with carriers in other countries, so
they have to pay an intermediate carrier.  When they don't pay the bill,
you calls be blocked to some places.  Even weirder, sometimes the call
will go through but the money will be placed into an escrow account (e.g.
calling Cuba from the USA).

Wow, there seems to be a lot of reasons why you may not be able to dial
any number from any phone.  Do all those limits mean you can't call it
the PSTN or POTS anymore?  What do you call your phone today instead?

> Bottom line.  Selling "internet access" where you can't get to "the
> whole internet" (which no one of us can define, sorry) is deceptive
> advertising.  Bait and switch.  There's a litany of case law on the
> subject from many industries.  If you're company is anywhere near such a
> cliff, run, quickly, to the nearest exit.  It will be bad when they get
> it wrong.

Bottom line, its called legal uncertainty. If no one is able to define
what the Internet is or isn't, will the lawyers simply prohibit the use of
the word "Internet" and do a global search and replace with a different
term?  Do you think a more likely outcome is the marketing departments
will just invent new brand names for stuff?  The companies will go on and
sell whatever they decide to sell using the new name, while the term
"Internet" becomes a historical footnote like ARPANET and NSFNET.

Have you tried to buy an HDTV recently?

Would that really be an improvement?