In the Matter of ) Access Charge Reform ) CC Docket No. 96-262 ) Price Cap Performance Review ) CC Docket No. 94-1 for LECs ) ) ) Transport Rate Structure and Pricing ) CC Docket No. 91-213 ) Usage of the Public Switched Network by ) Information Service and Internet Access ) CC Docket No. 96-263 Providers. )
These are comments of the Consumer Project on Technology. (http://www.cptech.org). As we have indicated in earlier proceedings, CPT is concerned that the incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (LECs) have failed to deploy higher bandwidth technologies for residential consumers.
1. Accounts of Network Congestion Are Greatly Exaggerated by the LECs
Accounts of congestion on the public switched network due to dial-in Internet usage are greatly exaggerated. In fact, there is no evidence that current residential modem usage is placing greater demands on the public switched network than non-modem usage. Bell Atlantic and other LECs cite studies to suggest that residential modem calls are longer than voice calls. PacBell asserts that modem callers use the public switched network for more total minutes than do non-modem users. However, the Commission has not had the opportunity to examine evidence that puts these figures into perspective. For example, it is likely that Internet usage has substantially increased the total load period for the network, and that much of the new Internet traffic occurs during hours when the voice network is slack.
More important, the Commission can examine independent data on Internet usage which is very much at odds with the LEC assertions regarding usage. Specifically, ISPs are constrained in the number of users that can connect at any one time by the number of incoming lines. Our surveys of ISPs tells us most have 10 to 20 customers per incoming line, limiting access to 5 to 10 percent of their customers at any one time. In contrast, most of the LECs build out the public switched voice network to accommodate 1 of 7 customers, or 14 percent.
American Online is in current trouble because it only had 200,000 incoming lines for 8 million customers, a ratio of 40 to 1, or about 2.5 percent -- about half the minimum for a typical flat rate ISP. But despite the fact that the AOL customers find the AOL network congested, the AOL customers as a group are hardly putting a dent in the capacity of the public switched network.
With increased calling, these ratios may change sometime down the road, but we are not close to seeing calling patterns that would approach the 14 percent usage levels of the voice network.
For additional discussions of congestion issues, see Fred Goldstein's November 1996, Maryland ISDN testimony, at http://essential.org/cpt/isdn/MD-fgoldsteintest.html
2. The Commission needs better data on Network usage.
Voice and data usage patterns are very different, and we need better data to study how data users are changing network peaks and network loads. The Commission can obtain much of these independently from ISPs, but it also needs to make better and more detailed data on voice usage available to the public for comparisons.
3. It is in the public interest to promote Internet Usage
The high rates of Internet usage in the United States are the envy of the world. This is largely due to our traditions of flat rate local telephone rates. Other nations are surpassing US deployment of higher speed digital lines, like ISDN. To maintain our leadership, the U.S. needs to encourage higher rates of deployment for digital lines, with a rate structure that encourages residential Internet usage, and the deployment of new Internet based services.
4. ISPs need protections from Anticompetitive Actions by LECs
LECs are seeking high fees on ISPs to receive incoming calls at the same time that LECs are seeking to compete with ISPs and to purchase ISP assets. In some states, such as California, LECs are engaging in predatory practices, giving away unregulated competitive ISP services in return for the purchase of monopoly regulated POTS services. LECs have many conflicts of interest with ISPs. The Commission should protect independent ISPs from anticompetitive practices, and from excessive fees.
Consumer Project on Technology
P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036
202.387.8030; fax: 202.234-5176