[Fwd: Long Distance/E-mail]

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Wed Apr 14 11:58:07 CDT 1999

>From all that I've been able to see on the net in the last few months, this
looks to be a hoax. In fact, the internet site that discusses this the most
is the "urban legends" newsgroup. Appended below is an excerpt from the
FCC's official page dealing with the "long distance charges for the net"
issue. Note that the dates are ALL at least a year old. I haven't seen
anything new that suggests that the following stuff is outdated. I haven't
yet seen any trustworthy reports or transcripts of anything like the
alleged report from CNN, as the forwarded message indicated. I would be
very interested to hear if anyone has actually seen any news reports on
this anywhere besides the internet, which is Hoax Central these days. UNTIL
E-MAIL. (Nothing personal, Stuart, believe me). If anyone has already
forwarded that first message to anyone else, you might want to send this
message as a followup. My sincere apologies for the waste of bandwidth.

This fact sheet offers informal guidance on an issue that has generated a
great deal of public interest. For more specific details about the
proceedings currently before the Commission, please visit our web
site (http://www.fcc.gov/).

In December 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested
public comment on issues relating to the charges that Internet Service
Providers (ISPs) and similar companies pay to local
telephone companies. On May 7, 1997, the FCC decided to leave the existing
rate structure in place. In other words, the FCC decided not to allow local
telephone companies to impose per-minute access
charged on ISPs.

Please Note: There is no open comment period in this proceeding. If you
have recently seen a message on the Internet stating that in response to a
request from local telephone companies, the FCC is
requesting comments to <isp at fcc.gov> by February 1998, be aware that this
information is inaccurate.

The FCC issued an unrelated public notice, DA 98-2, on January 5, 1998 in
connection with a report to Congress on universal service. Pursuant to the
FCC's 1998 appropriations legislation, the Commission
must submit a report by April 10, 1998 on several issues including the
legal status of Internet services under the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Comments in response to the public notice are due January
20, 1998, and reply comments are due February 2, 1998. Informal comments
may be sent by email to <usreport at fcc.gov>.

Background Information

Each long distance telephone call you make includes per-minute fees that
your long distance carrier pays to the originating and terminating local
telephone companies over whose facilities that call also
travelled. Those fees, which are designed to recover the costs to local
telephone companies for use of their facilities, are referred to as "access

As part of its Access Reform proceeding, CC Docket 96-262, the FCC in
December 1996 sought comment on the treatment of ISPs and other "enhanced
service providers" that also use local telephone
companies' facilities. Since the access charge system was established in
1983, enhanced service providers have been classified as "end users" rather
than "carriers" for purposes of the access charge rules, and
therefore they do not pay the per-minute access charges that long-distance
companies pay to local telephone companies.

In the Access Reform Order, FCC 97-158, adopted on May 7, 1997, the FCC
concluded that the existing rate structure for ISPs should remain in place.
In other words, the Commission reaffirmed that ISPs are
not required to pay interstate access charges.

When it began the Access Reform proceeding, the Commission also issued a
Notice of Inquiry, CC Docket 96-263, seeking comment more broadly on usage
of the public switched telephone network by
Internet and interstate information service providers. A Notice of Inquiry
is a request for information that does not involve any specific proposed
action. The Commission stated in the Access Reform order that
it intended to use the Notice of Inquiry record to develop a Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing actions to facilitate the efficient
deployment of data networks.

Frequently Asked Questions on Internet Services and Access Charges

Q: How are access charges different from the rates ISPs pay now?

A: Today, ISPs typically purchase "business lines" from local phone
companies. Business lines usually include a flat monthly charge, and a
per-minute charge for making outgoing calls. Because ISPs
receive calls from their subscribers rather than making outgoing calls,
ISPs generally do not pay any per-minute charges for their lines, which is
one reason many ISPs do not charge per-minute rates for
Internet access. Access charges, by contrast, include per-minute fees for
both outgoing and incoming calls. The rate levels of interstate access
charges are also in many cases higher than the flat business line
rates ISPs pay today.

Q: Have local phone companies requested authority from the FCC to charge
per-minute rates to ISPs?

A: Since 1983, there has been an ongoing debate about whether enhanced
service providers should be required to pay access charges, based on the
contention that these companies use local networks in the
same manner as long-distance carriers. In June 1996, four local telephone
companies (Pacific Bell, Bell Atlantic, US West, and NYNEX) submitted
studies to the FCC concerning the effects of Internet usage
on these carriers' networks. The companies argued that the existing rate
structure did not reflect the costs imposed on local telephone companies to
support Internet access, and that Internet usage was causing
congestion in part of the local network. In connection with these studies
and other pleadings, several local phone companies have asked the FCC for
authority to charge interstate access charges to ISPs,
although they have not filed a formal petition for rulemaking.

Q: Is the FCC considering allowing local phone companies to impose access
charges on ISPs?

A: The FCC requested public comment in December 1996 on whether ISPs should
pay current access charges, and more generally on how Internet and
interstate information services that use local telephone
networks should be treated. The Commission concluded on May 7, 1997 that
ISPs should not be subject to interstate access charges. There is currently
no open comment period on this issue.

Q: Does the FCC currently have an ongoing proceeding on Internet and
interstate information services?

A: The FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) in December 1996, at the same
time as it asked for comment on whether ISPs should be subject to access
charges. The NOI asked generally about how to create
incentives for companies to make the most efficient use of the telephone
network for Internet and other information services. The comment period for
the NOI is closed, but the FCC has stated that it plans to
issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) asking for comment on more
specific proposals based on the responses to the NOI. The NPRM will
consider actions other than imposition of per-minute
access charges on ISPs.

Q: Are comments filed by other parties be available for review?

A: Yes. All formal comments are available for review in the FCC Reference
Center in Washington DC, and copies may be purchased through International
Transcription Services, which can be reached at
202-857-3800. In addition, copies of comments that were submitted on
diskette are available for review at http://www.fcc.gov/ccb/comments.html.

Q: Is the FCC considering taxes for use of the Internet or online services?

A: No. The debate involves charges levied by local phone companies, not
government taxes.

Q: Is this the "FCC modem tax" that has been floating around the Internet
in various forms for several years?

A: The "modem tax" referred to a proposal in 1987 to require enhanced
service providers to pay interstate access charges, which at that time were
significantly higher than they are today. The 1987 proposal
was abandoned in 1988. The current Access Reform proceeding is entirely

For more specific questions, see the Access Reform page on the on the FCC
Web site at http://www.fcc.gov/isp.html.

Doug Yanega       Dept. of Entomology           Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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