Silencing the Net - Human Rights Watch, Burmese
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Computer underground Digest Wed Jun 12, 1996 Volume 8 : Issue 44
Editor: Jim Thomas (email@example.com)
News Editor: Gordon Meyer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Shadow Master: Stanton McCandlish
Field Agent Extraordinaire: David Smith
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Cu Digest Homepage: http://www.soci.niu.edu/~cudigest
CONTENTS, #8.44 (Wed, Jun 12, 1996)
File 1--"Silencing the Net" -- Human Rights Watch
File 2--Burmese businessman sentenced for unauthorized telephones, faxes
File 3--European Commission "looking actively" at net-regulation
File 4--Singapore providers may block access
File 5--Vietnam announces strict Internet controls
File 6--Seoul battles Pyongyang in cyberspace
File 7--Re: Report from Germany on "backdoor" net-censorship
File 8--(fwd) THE REGULATORS MEET THE INTERNET
File 9--Cu Digest Header Info (unchanged since 7 Apr, 1996)
CuD ADMINISTRATIVE, EDITORIAL, AND SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION ApPEARS IN
THE CONCLUDING FILE AT THE END OF EACH ISSUE.
Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 21:19:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: Declan McCullagh <declan@EFF.ORG>
Subject: File 1--"Silencing the Net" -- Human Rights Watch
I can't emphasize enough the importance of this report from Human Rights
Read it! "Silencing the Net" talks about the very topics we've been
discussing here -- movements towards greater controls of the Net in France,
Germany, Zambia, China, Singapore, and many other countries. Much of the
information in the report is new and not available anywhere else online.
"Silencing the Net" marks a turning point in the Net-censorship fight --
the involvement of major NGOs. It comes not a moment too soon, for the G7
Ministerial Conference on the Information Society and Development starts
Monday. Next month, according to a report:
Lacking the power to police the Internet, France will invite its G7
partners (at Lyons in June) to consider the co-ordinated introduction of a
"code of good conduct".
[Archived at http://fight-censorship.dementia.org/dl?num=2449]
Longtime fight-censorship reader Karen Sorensen wrote much of this report,
based on a letter for the GII conference prepared by 1995 Bradford Wiley
Fellow Ann Beeson. I picked up a hardcopy of "Silencing the Net" at the CDA
hearing today -- go get yours now!
I have "Silencing the Net" archived at:
My international net-censorship roundup is at:
// email@example.com // I do not represent the EFF // firstname.lastname@example.org //
FOR RELEASE MAY 10, 1996
For Further Information:
Karen Sorensen (212) 972-8400, x 233
Robert Kimzey (212) 972-8400, x 297
Susan Osnos (212) 972-8400, x 216
EFFORTS TO CENSOR THE INTERNET EXPAND
U.S. a Miserable Role Model with Passage of Communications Decency Act
May 10, 1996 (New York) Governments around the world, claiming they want to
protect children, thwart terrorists or silence racists and hate mongers, are
rushing to eradicate freedom of expression on the Internet. "The U.S. Congress
and the Clinton administration, reacting to recent hysteria over cyberporn,'
led the way by passing the Communications Decency Act," says Karen Sorensen,
Human Rights Watch on-line research associate. "It is particularly crucial
now, in the early stages of vast technological change, that all governments
reaffirm their commitment to respect the rights of citizens to communicate
freely, and for the United States as the birthplace of the Internet, to be a
model for free speech, not censorship," she adds. Human Rights Watch is a
plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union
challenging the CDA on constitutional grounds. The hearings in the lawsuit,
which was filed in U.S. Federal District Court on February 8 (the day it was
signed into law) end today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The judges are
expected to rule shortly thereafter.
In addition, Human Rights Watch is calling on the nations participating in the
G7 Ministerial Conference on the Information Society and Development to be
held in South Africa from May 13-15, 1996, to repudiate the international
trend toward censorship and to express unequivocal support for free expression
guarantees on-line. Among the G7 countries Britain, Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, Japan, and the United States only the U.S. has actually passed
legislation curtailing freedom of expression on-line. The trend toward
restricting on-line communication is growing, according to Silencing the Net:
The Threat to Freedom of Expression On-line, which documents restrictions that
have been put in place in at least twenty countries, including the following:
-- China, which requires users and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to
register with authorities;
-- Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, which permit only a single, government-controlled
gateway for Internet service;
-- United States, which has enacted new Internet-specific legislation that
imposes more restrictive regulations on electronic expression than those
currently applied to printed expression;
-- India, which charges exorbitant rates for international access through the
state-owned phone company;
-- Germany, which has cut off access to particular host computers or Internet
-- Singapore, which has chosen to regulate the Internet as if it were a
broadcast medium, and requires political and religious content providers to
register with the state; and
-- New Zealand, which classifies computer disks as publications and has seized
and restricted them accordingly.
Human Rights Watch recommends principles for international and regional bodies
and nations to follow when formulating public policy and laws affecting the
Internet, sets forth the international legal principles governing on-line
expression, and, examines some of the current attempts around the globe to
censor on-line communication.
The 24-page report is available via e-mail at email@example.com or from the
Human Rights Gopher:
Paper copies of Silencing the Net are available from the Publications
Department, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104 for
$3.60 (domestic), $4.50 (international). Visa/MasterCard accepted.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to
monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights
in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of
the Helsinki accords. It is supported by contributions from private
individuals and foundations worldwide. It accepts no government funds,
directly or indirectly. The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director;
Cynthia Brown, program director; Holly J. Burkhalter, advocacy director;
Barbara Guglielmo, finance and administration director; Robert Kimzey,
publications director; Jeri Laber, special advisor; Gara LaMarche, associate
director; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Juan Mendez, general
counsel; Susan Osnos, communications director; Jemera Rone, counsel; and
Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative. Robert L. Bernstein is the
chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair.
Date: Sun, 19 May 1996 12:52:00 -0400 (EDT)
From: Declan B. McCullagh <declan+@CMU.EDU>
Subject: File 2--Burmese businessman sentenced for unauthorized telephones, faxe
[If Burma's government won't allow unauthorized telephones, I suspect
they won't be too keen on the Internet. *sigh* Something else to add to
---------- Forwarded message begins here ----------
Date--Sun, 19 May 1996 11:40:11 -0400
Subject--News from Burma
An anglo-Burmese businessman friendly with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi has been sentenced to thre years in jail for owning unauthorized
telephones and fax machines. James Leander Nichols, also known as Leo
Nicholas, was punished for having two fax machines and a telephone
switchboard with nine lines in his home, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's political
party said. In an effort to discourage contact between Burmese citizens and
the outside world, Burma's military government requires people to get
permission to own a fax machine, satellite dish, or sophisticated phone system.
The Atlanta Constitution/The Atlanta Journal
Date: Sat, 4 May 1996 14:30:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Declan B. McCullagh" <declan+@CMU.EDU>
Subject: File 3--European Commission "looking actively" at net-regulation
[I just updated my international net-censorship page, which is now at
<http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~declan/international/>. This "informal meeting"
by the EC comes just in time for the G-7 summit next month... --Declan]
---------- Forwarded message begins here ----------
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, 1996 MAY 3 (NB) -- The European Commission (EC) has
confirmed it is now looking actively at methods by which its official
agencies can police the Internet.
Speaking earlier this week in Italy, where an informal IT (information
technology) meeting took place between various EC agencies, Agostino
Gambino, the Italian Minister for Telecommunications, told journalists
that the main focus of the regulatory changes will be to protect the
interests of children, and outlaw criminal activity on the Internet.
Gambino said that an informal meeting between himself and his EC
member country counterparts in Bologna, Italy, had been successful,
and had established a framework for a full report from the EC. Once
the report was prepared, he said, a decision on how best to proceed
would be taken by Brussels.
"Many member states perceive the need now for some discipline, some
kind of regulatory framework, codes of ethics," he told journalists,
adding the French government has proposed that EC member states draw
up a draft global convention on ethics, legislation and the Internet.
According to EC officials, the first task of the Consultative
Commission on Racism and Xenophobia (CRAX), as it is called, will be
to investigate and, using legal means, stamp out the current wave of
racism on the Internet.
Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 23:42:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Declan B. McCullagh" <declan+@CMU.EDU>
Subject: File 4--Singapore providers may block access
---------- Forwarded message begins here ----------
May 1, 1996
CENTRAL, HONG KONG, 1996 MAY 1 (NB) -- Singapore's Internet operators
could block their sites to non-subscribers. According to the
Telecommunication Authority of Singapore, which regulates Internet
provisions, there are no regulations to stop operators from restricting
access to their services.
A report in the Singapore Straits Times said that two of the country's
three Internet providers were looking at the option of blocking access
to their sites from non-subscribers.
Pacific Internet said: "With regards to new services, we are always on
the lookout for new opportunities. However, we will cross the bridge
when we come to it."
A CyberWay spokesman indicated that the company was looking at
introducing "special services which may be exclusive to CyberWay
However, it seems the issue is little more than a storm in tea-cup,
since the "blocking" to be discussed is only on specific services the
ISPs provide for their own subscribers -- services similar to those
being planned both by Hong Kong's Netvigator ISP and Asia Online.
In both cases the value-added services must be paid for, either by
having an account with the ISP, or by giving credit card details.
Subject-- email repression in Belarus
Date-- Thu, 30 May 1996 13:38:21 +0300
I received the following disturbing message from friends in Minsk
today and translated it. Feel free to forward it further. Please
May 23, 1996
New Rules for Working on the Internet in Belarus
The President's Administration has made a special decree obligating
all users of the Internet in the country to register with the police.
Everyone who has an electronic mail address in a state-run or
independent network must report to the local regional station.
According to the official version, this is linked with the battle
against anti-governmental information and with the suppression of
enemy-of-the-people provocation. The deadline for registration is 30
days. Serious punishments, which are not outlined in the text of the
decree, await those who do not register. According to the opinion of
a highly-placed Administration official, the new decree will assist
"the healthy development of the information industry of the country."
PC World Belarus magazine
Copyright © "RM", 1996. All right reserved.
WWW: designed & provided by Mediacom information company
Server: Relis of "Relcom" corp.
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 23:22:55 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Declan B. McCullagh" <declan+@CMU.EDU>
Subject: File 5--Vietnam announces strict Internet controls
((My international net-censorship roundup is at
HANOI, June 6 (Reuter) - Vietnam has imposed strict rules on use of
the Internet including a ban on direct access by private
Under the rules, which came into effect in late May but were
released to journalists this week, the Vietnamese government would
monitor information and subscribers. Vietnam has limited access to
the Internet at present but has yet to establish a full commercial
Under the directive, issued by the General Directorate of Posts and
Telecommunications, subscribers will only be allowed access via
companies which restrict information in accordance with state
The rules make Internet users legally responsible for any
information they provide or receive. Companies which provide
commercial access are also bound to give Vietnam's Interior (Police)
Ministry monitoring powers. Despite nearly a decade of reforms and
a growing news media industry, Vietnam still maintains tight control
over the flow of information.
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 23:21:22 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Declan B. McCullagh" <declan+@CMU.EDU>
Subject: File 6--Seoul battles Pyongyang in cyberspace
SEOUL, June 6 (Reuter) - South Korea has warned its public
against making contact with North Korea on the Internet, taking
its battle with arch-foe Pyongyang into cyberspace.
State radio on Thursday quoted prosecutors as saying stern
measures would be taken against anybody trying to access North
Korean homepages on the worldwide web.
Prosecutors said Internet subscribers who distributed or
transferred such information to local personal computer networks
would be punished under the National Security Law, which bars
all unauthorised contacts with the North.
The radio gave no further details, and prosecutors were not
immediately available for comment on a public holiday.
North and South Korea have been technically at war since
their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce.
Internet enthusiasts say they have detected no signs of
North Korean activity in cyberspace. It is not clear whether the
country can access the global network.
There are a number of homepages carrying North Korean news
and information, but these do not originate in Pyongyang.
A South Korean newspaper this week created a stir by
identifying one of these pages and suggesting it could have been
backed by Pyongyang.
Checks showed the homepage was created by a Canadian
student, David Burgess, who travelled to North Korea in 1995. It
consists partly of pamphlets he found on North Korea's national
Burgess said he has been bombarded with e-mail queries on
whether he is a North Korean agent.
It is a serious offence in South Korea to sell or possess
any literature produced in North Korea.
Seoul bars monitoring of North Korean media, including radio
and the state news agency, within the country.
Date: Sun, 9 Jun 96 23:10 MET DST
From: Ulf Moeller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: File 7--Re: Report from Germany on "backdoor" net-censorship
[German institutions' cancelling pornography, violence and Nazi
propaganda on Usenet will certainly have large international impact.
Thus I strongly suggest that you ask <email@example.com> for an official
translation. I cannot guarantee for this rough translation to be
correct. -- Ulf]
From: firstname.lastname@example.org ("Harald A. Summa")
Press Release, June 5, 1996
Internet Media Counsil presents fist measurements for Voluntary
[Voluntary Self-Control is the doublespeak term for censorship on
pornography, violence, etc. It is, of course, not voluntary. um]
The leading Internet Serive Providers, on whose initiave the Internet
Medienrat, have deciced to found the Internet Content Task Force (ICTF)
for the purposes of Voluntary Self-Control. The ICTF will introduce
technical and organizational measurements to put up effective control
against contents harmful to minors and national-socialist propaganda
material. As a first step, the ICTF occupy itself with the News service,
and later with other forms of content transport in the Internet as
The Internet Content Task Force will supply a news server specificially
configured for purposes of self-control at DE-CIX, the national data
exchange point of the Internet Service Providers. Proof of origin of
critical articles will be processed by the server, archived in a data
base observing privacy laws, and stored at a central facility.
Furthermore, sample news articles will be suject to detailed legal
evaluation. Should this result in suspicion or proof of transportation
of illegal contents, the ICTF can launch various steps to work against
propagation of these contents. For example, it can arrange for
blocking of complete newsgroups or retrospect "Cancel" of articles
already transmitted. ICTF can direct possible criminal investigation
with help of its data base.
Criteria for the ICTF's proceed will be developed, evaluated and
continuously updated by the Internet Medienrat. As an independant
gremium, the Internet Medienrat tries to achieve a social consensus
in the use of online media without government [sic! um] censorship.
The formation of the Internet Medienrat, which is currently preparing
its working basis, is being pushed ahead by Prof. Goetze, COE of
Springer Verlag Heidelberg, and eco Electronic Commerce Forum e.V.
It will present its members and organization to the public on
September 19, 1996.
>From govenment side, the Internet Medienrat is supported by the
Federal Ministry of Economy. Min. of Economy Rexroth: "I appreciate
the German online industry's initiative to found an Internet Media
Counsil as a gremium of Voluntary Self-Control."
Background Information on the Internet Content Task Force (ICTF)
The problem of protection of minors and of spreading
national-socialist ideas in the new media - especially on the Internet
- is currently being discussed intensively and controversially.
Meanwhile, politics and investigation authorities have begun to
proceed against the distribution of illegal contents the the Internet.
In the past weeks, the press has been reporting intensively about
investigations against large service providers.
However, the current legal situation gives few starting points for
coordinated proceeding. Lawyers cannot even agree on who can and
should be punished for distributing contents relevant to criminal
law on the Internet. Depending on standpoint and interests, even
noted criminal lawyers hold different views. Some do not consider
distribution of pornography and national-socialist writings in
electronic form punishable at all, others even want to hold service
providers responsible for mere transportation of data. Mediating
opionions imply that only the author of the message be punishable.
The only strong fact in the complete discussion is that the matter
-- as always in difficult dogmatic questions in penal law -- will
finally be decided by courts. It is also a fact that the true
authors of illegal messages -- especially those with an especially
high criminal energy -- can be determined only with great difficulty,
so that the threat of punishment insofar is void.
The solution to this problem is being complicated by the continuing
political discussion and superposed by other question complexes.
For example, the states regard new media as an extension of their
traditional radio regulation competence. They are trying to ensure
future influence by an extensive interpretation of the constitutional
regulation of competences and the laws and state treaties based on it.
The draft State Treaty on Media Services that applies to the whole
field of Internet and online services is one result of these
reasonings. To create facts in this field, the state treaty shall
be passed soon.
Lead by the "Future" Ministry, the federation is also working on
legal framework for new information and communication services to
comprehensively cover the subject. The Ministry of Interior on its
side is concerned with restricting Freedom of Communication with
priority. This activity has already resulted in the novel Wiretap
Law and the Telecommunication Surveillance Decree. Further laws,
especially a ban on crytography, are planned. On the European level,
a working group initiated on the last G7 conference, is trying to
achive international consesus.
Legal clarification, which is strictly needed but with still open
result, is faced by fear of censorship and too wide-reaching
Since a long time, the leading German Internet Service Providers have
been trying to solve the now openly visible conflict betreen the
"Information Police State" and the "Anarchy in the Net" as feared by
politics. Thus they have propagated founding a Voluntary Self-Control
and initiated the formation of an Internet Medienrat. As a further
buiding stone, the Internet Content Task Force (ICTF) is now being
put to existence.
This shall also work against the impression that the main purpose of
the Internet were distributiong extremist and pornographic contents.
At least this was the result of numerous -- often badly researched --
reports in the recent weeks. They did neither differenciate between
the Internet services (Mail, News, WWW, Chat and others), nor present
the relation of doubtlessly useful and the less desired contents.
ICTF now turns towards the problem in a much more refined way. There,
it first will occupy itself with the currently probably most critcal
part of the Internet, the so-called News service.
The special problem of the News service is that information can be
distributed world-wide, yet anonymously. This is different of at least
fundamentally more difficult in other parts of the Internet, so that
the volume of critical content in the News is comparably high. The
ICTF will register the information availible on the origin of news
and store them in a data base as to make it possible to determine
who has sent an article or disguised the real author's identity, in
retrospect. The data base will be kept observing privavy laws and
third parties' protection-deserving interests [the Privacy Law puts
limits on databases with "protection-deserving" personal
information, um]. To avoid abuse, the data will regularly be exported
to hard storage and deposited with an attorney.
Furthermore, the existing or newly created newsgroups will be
classified, so that groups serving to distribute exclusively or
predominantly illegal contents can be excluded from further
distribution. Sample investigation of articles and analysis of
articles as necessary will also make it possible to limit the
transportation of individual articles.
Founding the ICTF, the Internet Service Providers accept part of the
responsibility in forming a modern information society. It is clear
that preventive action on a national level cannot stop illegal action
on a global level. Thus, the ICTF is a model for similar initiatives
in other countries, and is to be seen as an appeal to politics to
make their contribution to solving the problem. Currently, the ICTF
is the only perceptible approach to respect the need for "Law and
Order" and yet leaves the new medium Internet with the freedom needed
for futher prosperation.
On the other hand, national legislator's attempts to solve the problem
on its own will hardly solve the problem, but put severe damage to
the economic site Germany. For one thing is clear in the virtual
worlds of communication networks: Borders lose their importance, and
location is no longer an issue. There is nothing to prevent an
enterprise from moving its online activities to a country with less
bureaucrary and legal restrictions. First tendencies for migration
are already percepted.
The Internet Content Task Force is supported be the following Internet
CERFnet GmbH, Heidenrod
ECRC GmbH, Muenchen,
EUnet Deutschland GmbH,=20
GTN GmbH, Krefeld,
ipf.net GmbH, Frankfurt,
IS/Thyssen Internet Service GmbH, Hamburg,
Point of Presence, Hamburg,=20
nacamar GmbH, Dreieich,
NTG-X/link GmbH, Karlsruhe,
roka GmbH, Duisburg,
seicom GmbH, Pfullingen,
spacenet GmbH, Muenchen.
Further information can be obtained from:
eco Electronic Commerce Forum e. V.
c/o Harald A. Summa
Tel:=09+49 (0) 231 44 79 49
Fax:=09+49 (0) 231 44 81 35
attorney at law
RA Michael Schneider
53773 Hennef / Sieg,=20
Tel:=09+49 (0) 2242 9270-0=20
Fax: =09+49 (0) 2242 9270-99 =20
eco - Electronic Commerce Forum e. V.
c/o Harald A. Summa
Tel 0231 / 44 79 49
Fax 0231 / 44 81 35
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 14:01:02 +0100 (BST)
From: Richard K. Moore <email@example.com>
Subject: File 8--(fwd) THE REGULATORS MEET THE INTERNET
I'm forwarding this excellent article by Craig Johnson to several
lists. I hope you find it useful, and please accept my apologies if you
consider it off topic or if someone else already forwarded it.
My only nitpick with Craig is one of perspective... he describes
Internet as being free of regulation currently, and being under threat of
coming under the attention of the FCC, for the first time. I see this
differently. I'd say that the Internet has always been conciously
regulated by the FCC -- and in a very enlightened way.
The decision was made (in the late sixties, I believe) to allow
Tymshare, GE, GTE/Telenet, and others, to offer value-added communication
services, and to pay only standard rates for the leased or dial-up
communications facilities they required to provide their service (or their
customers required to access them). Internet was one of the natural
consequences of the existence of this open, value-added marketplace.
Thus Internet has been the intentional beneficiary of the
regulatory regime we've lived under prior to the so-called Reform bill.
>From this perspective, it is the Reform-bill's _deregulation_ that
threatens Internet, in that it destabilizes existing arrangements, and
gives more leeway to the big operators to determine pricing structures.
Thus while Craig's interpretation seems to be that regulation -- of
any kind -- is the enemy, I claim that appropriate regulation has been our
safe-haven birthplace, and that appropriate regulation should be the
positive goal we pursue -- with a healthy appreciation of the benefits
we've derived from the previous regime.
But these are only philosophical nitpicks -- many thanks to Craig
for summarizing the situation and alerting us to the opportunity to
influence the FCC. Brilliant work, as usual.
(please Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org if replying)
_________________| forwarded message follows |__________________
Date--Tue, 30 Apr 1996
From--"Craig A. Johnson" <email@example.com>
Subject--cr> Regulating the Internet
It is highly recommended that those who are concerned about the
coming communications regulatory regime read the FCC's recent NPRMs
on "universal service" and "interconnection."
ANALYSIS: FREE NET TELEPHONY
by Craig A. Johnson
American Reporter Correspondent
THE REGULATORS MEET THE INTERNET
by Craig A. Johnson
American Reporter Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- Fears of Rambo-like regulation have spawned a sort
of spring fever in the online world, with presumptive alarms and bulletins
ricocheting all over the Net.
Will the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) choke the
Internet's wide-open pathways with regulatory underbrush? Will the
petition filed by the Americas' Carriers Telecommunications Association
(ACTA) on March 4 be granted, stopping Internet telephony or mandating
access charges? (AR, No. 245 ) Or, even more catastrophically, will the
Net somehow be swept under the FCC regime for telecommunications carriers?
The answers, according to sources both inside and outside of the
FCC, for the time being, are a qualified no. On April 19, the FCC gave
its tentative response on the Net telephony problem, partially assuaging
worries that new regulations will require access charges and tariffing for
long distance voice over the Internet. Although the soft no from the FCC
was reassuring, the wall protecting Internet voice as an "information
service" has scores of cracks and may still crumble under the blows of a
The issue was addressed in the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
(NPRM) on "interconnection," or more formally, "implementation of
the local competition provisions in the Telecommunications Act of
1996." The NPRM is as interesting for what it does not say as for
what it does.
Generally, it poses a lot of questions, on which parties will file
comments, and on the basis of which the FCC will finalize rules in August.
The agency sees the proceeding and the consequent rules as establishing
"the 'new regulatory paradigm' that is essential to achieving Congress'
The visible fractures in the old regulatory regime stood out
prominently in the interconnection notice. Two aspects of the proceeding,
in particular, directly relate to Internet access and pricing regimes.
First, the FCC made it clear that current access charges and
interconnection regulations are "enforceable until they are superseded."
The FCC said, in regulatory-ese, that it wanted comments on "any aspect of
this Notice that may affect existing 'equal access and nondiscriminatory
interconnection restrictions and obligations (including receipt of
Translated, this means that Net telephone providers and users can
breathe a little more easily for the time being. But, the call for
comments on the existing "restrictions and guidelines" should not be taken
for granted. It is precisely these regulations -- which exempt "enhanced
service" providers, like Internet and online service providers from paying
access charges for their usage of the facilities and network components of
local exchange carriers (LECs) -- which are on the table in this
proceeding and related ones.
A second aspect of the interconnection proceeding relates directly
to definitions. The Commission asks for comment "on which carriers are
included under" the definition of "telecommunications carriers" offered in
the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Critically, the agency asks: "How does the provision of an
information service [as conventionally defined in the law and prior
regulations], in addition to an unrelated telecommunications service,
affect the status of a carrier as a 'telecommunications carrier?'"
This is a call for commenters to address the issue of whether
"information service providers," such as ISPs, who also provide
"telecommunications services," should be treated as "telecommunications
carriers" and therefore be subject to all, some, or none of the
requirements of common carriers, including the payment of access charges
and the filing of tariffs.
In practical terms the FCC is asking the online community to
persuade them that ISPs who permit Internet audio streaming applications,
such as long distance voice, should not be considered under the same rules
applying to "telecommunications providers."
The FCC emphasizes that the interconnection rulemaking "is one of
a number of interrelated proceedings," and explains that the answer to
how, in which ways, and to what extent the Internet will be regulated will
be a product of "the interrelationship between this proceeding, our
recently initiated proceeding to implement the comprehensive universal
service provisions of the 1996 Act and our upcoming proceeding to reform
our Part 69 access charge rules."
This should be seen as a warning flag that issues concerning
access charges for the Internet have yet to be even taken up by the
Commission, and will be one of the outcomes of several complex
proceedings, with public comments invited from all consumer and business
The FCC NPRM and order establishing the joint federal-state
universal service board, issued on March 8, for example, emphasizes the
provision in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which stipulates that
"[a]ccess to advanced telecommunications and information services should
be provided in all regions of the country." The FCC says that "commenters
may wish to discuss Internet access availability, data transmission
capability, ... enhanced services, and broadband services."
In both this and the interconnection notices, the agency
emphasizes its statutory authority to regulate the Internet. The news so
far is relatively positive. The FCC claims it doesn't want to prematurely
slap regulations on the Net which may stunt its remarkable growth and
But the handwriting is on the wall -- in several different hands
and scrawled over cracks. Arguments for Internet volume-based or
per-packet pricing will be surely surface in comments in the FCC
proceedings. The old argument for the "modem tax," which says that data
bits should be priced differently than voice bits, will likely rear its
Internet access is on the charts and in the dockets at the
Commission. It should have the same pride of place for all Internet
activists and user group communities. The FCC is asking the Internet and
computer user and business communities to wake up to an emergent
regulatory regime in which the old comfortable dualities such as
"information services" and "telecommunications services" -- which in the
past have insulated the Internet from regulation -- may not be easily
parsed. In short, the agency is begging for help in drafting the
cyber-roadmaps for the future.
(Note: Both the universal service NPRM and order and the
interconnection NPRM can be accessed via the FCC's Web page --
http://www.fcc.gov. Many of the comments for the universal service
proceedings are also now available at the site.)
(Craig Johnson writes on cyber rights issues for WIRED.)
The American Reporter
"The Internet Daily Newspaper"
Copyright 1995 Joe Shea, The American Reporter
All Rights Reserved
The American Reporter is published daily at 1812 Ivar
Ave., No. 5, Hollywood, CA 90028 Tel. (213)467-0616,
by members of the Society of Professional Journalists
(SPJ) Internet discussion list. It has no affiliation
with the SPJ. Articles may be submitted by email to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscriptions: Reader: $10.00
per month ($100 per year) and $.01 per word to republish
stories, or Professional: $125.00 per week for the re-use
of all American Reporter stories. We are reporter-owned.
For more info on AR: http://oz.net/~susanh/arbook.html
~ CYBER-RIGHTS ~
Visit The Cyber-Rights Library, accessible via FTP or WWW at:
You are encouraged to forward and cross-post list traffic,
pursuant to any contained copyright & redistribution restrictions.
Date: Thu, 21 Mar 1996 22:51:01 CST
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