Regulating the Internet
But that doesn't necessarily mean it won't happen.
It means that I won't vote for it. There are three other
commissioners at the FCC.
Why are you against the "Internet tax"?
Well, I think that right now the access charges are a tax on long
distance traffic: You make a long distance call, it costs you on average
12.3 cents a minute. Half
of that is a charge paid to the local telephone company by the long
distance company for
access, for terminating the call on one line, for taking it up on the other
line. Half of your long distance bill--6 cents a minute. That's a
Now that's a tax or subsidy that you're paying to keep the basic
dial-tone service low. You're not aware of that, but you're paying a lot of
money for that. Everyone in America is.
Do you think that Internet traffic
ought to pay that same tax or that same subsidy? My view is absolutely not.
What we ought to do is get away from the subsidized idea, get away from the
idea that we need to take money on a penny-per-minute basis from a business
user and give it to a residential user, or take money from New York and give
it to some other state.
We don't need to have a subsidy-prone, subsidy-rich
attitude toward the Internet world. We can say, "Look, pay the real cost of
the telephone line for Internet access." And after that let the technology
drive the costs lower and lower and lower every year, the same way that it
drives the cost of memory lower and lower every year, the same way it
drives the cost of computers lower and lower every year.
And is that part of the reason that the telephone companies'
requests on this have been turned down repeatedly by the FCC?
Well we're looking at it again because they've asked the question
again. And all I can tell you is where I stand on it, which is I'm just
going to say no. But there are three other commissioners and I don't know
what they'll do.
What about the telephone companies' argument that they have to
replace the switches because the average voice call is only three minutes
and Internet users are logging on forever?
Well I think that if they would get with the program and provide
essentially a data network that overlays the existing phone network, and if
they didn't have subsidies, they could charge what the real cost was for
that data network.
But they say "We can't afford that!"
Oh everybody says that to me on many, many issues and sometimes
they're right and sometimes they're wrong, but on this particular issue I
think the key is to adopt a very different approach, which is a
deregulated, nonsubsidized approach and let the consumer pay the real
cost, not some artificially high price that represents a hidden tax.
There have been some criticisms
about the way that the National
Science Foundation hands Internet names and numbers. Why is a private
company handing out what many consider to be a public resource, the same as
radio spectrum? Why isn't the FCC handing those out?
I think that's a good question. I think there ought to be a public
debate about that. I think it makes a lot of sense to at least consider
having the FCC take on this particular job.
The particular job of?
The job of making sure that domain names are available and
accessible and that copyright, for example, is respected. I don't think that
I ought to be able to get "coke.com," it seems to me that there's a copyright
issue there. It seems to me that it ought to be the case that domain names
are like mailboxes or addresses, right? Anywhere there's a relationship
between the name, the email address, and the location of the person. And
that is not the case now and I'm not sure that we've really got a good
system at work.
What about the portability of IP addresses? For example if I buy
my IP address through an Internet service provider right now, I really
can't move it because big networks wouldn't route my traffic, even if I
could take my IP number with me.
Yes, this is a non-trivial issue technologically, but it is very,
very similar to the number portability problem of telephones. Right now
you've got a phone number, you put it on a business card, you've memorized
it, you've told other people about it. And if you want to switch telephone
companies, because you like the competition and you get a better deal from
somebody else, you don't want to have to switch your phone number. You
want it to be portable.
When you switch long
distance companies from AT&T and MCI and they send you a check and they
treat you nicely, they take you out to dinner, they get you a car, they do
whatever they need to get you to switch long distance companies, they
don't tell you to change your phone number. So we have put in place
a number of portability rules that are going to require that the local
telephone companies rig their software to allow you to carry your phone
number to a different telephone company. That's exactly what needs to be
invented and put into place with respect to email addresses.
And maybe IP addresses and domain names?
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