Californian telco, Pacific Telesis, has published a study of Web usage aimed at convincing the US government that Internet traffic must be moved off the voice network. It also wants the US regulatory body, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to rule that Internet service providers should be charged for access to the local telephone network, claiming it could lose as much as $150 million over the next five years if the current model goes unchanged.
Pactel told the FCC this week that ISPs should be charged about one cent per minute for calls from their customers, in order to pay for the transfer of Net traffic to a dedicated network. Currently, ISPs are exempt from the fees that long distance companies pay local telephone companies for access to local lines.
The study, which examined Internet usage in California, shows that the percentage of Internet users who keep their connection active nearly 24 hours a day is beginning to approach a double-digit figure. According to Pactel, the situation is aggravated by flat rate pricing schemes introduced by ISPs like Netcom and America Online, which encourage users to stay online.
It reckons that if ISPs had to pay the full costs of the phone service they use, they would gladly switch to a higher quality and more efficient data network. ?The Internet has reached a phase of maturity that requires greater bandwidth for users and a lower capital cost to support its growth,? said Dave Dorman, president of Pacific Bell, the main operating subsidiary of Pactel. ?The solution lies in a combination of regulatory changes and new methods of routing Internet calls,? he said.
According to James Gardiner, marketing manager at UK ISP Demon Internet, there is no such problem yet in the UK. ?Because we don?t have free local calls in the UK or the critical mass that they have in the States we can afford to offer our users a flat rate pricing scheme. Moving to a high speed data network is not necessarily the answer in the States. Really they are just moving the bottleneck elsewhere,? he said.
Opponents of the Pactel proposals believe that imposing access charges on the ISPs could slow down growth in Internet usage and leave US telcos with a monopoly over the infrastructure. The Internet Access Coalition, which represents every major Internet and computer company, believes the only way to get phone companies to invest in proper data networks is to force them to compete in the open market.
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