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Questions and Answers on Internet Costs This article was published in _CAUSE/EFFECT_ Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 1994.

It is the intellectual property of the author. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage and that this block of information appears as part of the article. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission from the author. For further information, contact Julia Rudy at CAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301 USA; 303-939-0308; e-mail: CURRENT ISSUES QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON INTERNET COSTS by Robert G. Gillespie Q: Many people appear to use the Internet for free, regardless of the distance or the amount of use. Who does pay? A: Faculty members and others in institutions that have connections to the Internet through their regional networks ordinarily do not see any charges because most institutions have not chosen to recover their costs through usage charges to the user. The institutions are paying for the connections and services in these categories: (1) The institutions are investing in their local infrastructure (networks, workstations, operations, training, software, routers, etc.). (2) The institutions pay for access (connectivity) to the NSFNET through their regional networks (e.g., NorthWestNET, SURANET, CICNet, etc.). Those fees are usually membership fees that provide operations, training, and access. In addition, the institution usually is paying the regional telephone company for the high-speed line that connects the campus network to the regional network. (3) The institution also may be paying for the use of information services (commercial databases) from an information service provider. In some circumstances those are flat fees governed by a maximum number of users. (4) NSF has been paying for the cost of the national backbone (to ANS, MERIT, MCI, and others) that has interconnected the regional networks (and others) and also has paid for a portion of the regional network costs. Total costs for networking include local computer support and local network infrastructure, in addition to the wide area services. It is estimated that NSF's support defrays less than ten percent of the overall networking costs spent by institutions. For institutions that do not have direct connections and are

using dial-up connections, faculty members and others already may be paying usage fees to Internet service providers. Of course those fees can be usage based or flat rate depending on their service provider's approach (and competition). Currently there are about 1,000 out of 3,600 institutions of higher education that have direct connections to the Internet. A recent National Commission on Libraries and Information Science survey of a sample of public libraries indicates that approximately 21 percent of public libraries have Internet connections, but many of these use dial-up connections. Q: How can a message that is sent across the world with a million bytes be treated the same as one with a few lines sent within the state? A: There are several reasons for this. The major costs for lines and routing remain independent of the volume of use, until it is necessary to add more bandwidth. Also, because of the way that packets may be routed through different elements and subnetworks, it would be very difficult and costly to keep track of the actual paths and use. However, growing traffic because of increased use (more users, more bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video and Mosaic) means that the network bandwidth must increase, or congestion and delays will occur. Other approaches to avoiding congestion involve establishing priorities or setting different rates for different types of service. The costs of increasing bandwidth are closely related to the costs of switching (which track the computer chip costs). It may be possible to match the demand for bandwidth without increasing costs, as the technological improvements in switching speeds lower costs for bandwidth. However, since there are other factors involved--for instance, regulatory oversight--there are no guarantees! Q: Who sets the policy for the way persons connected through an institution or library pay? A: The institution/campus/library determines how the cost should be recovered or not (just as for telephone costs or computer costs). Neither NSF nor the telephone companies sets the rates for Internet services. Those are set by Internet service providers, which are either nonprofit (like most regionals) or commercial. Q: How will transition to the new NSFNET affect charging to the faculty members and others connected through their institutions? A: The faculty members and others are unlikely to see any changes. Charging is a policy decision for the local institution or library. Institutions may see an increase in the cost of connection (in their membership fees for regional networks). This is not expected to be more than 10 percent, but there may be anomalies. While NSF has assumed that institutions will be

able to absorb these cost increases at this level, it is also providing transition funds for the regional networks over four years to cushion the impact of those changes. The new architecture replaces the single national backbone, NSFNET, which currently carries the traffic between regional networks, with a new architecture where traffic between regional networks will be carried by commercial network providers. NSF is funding interconnection points (Network Access Points, or NAPs), which will provide interconnection for all Internet network service providers. Q: What are some of the difficult issues ahead? A: Guiding the Internet through another order of magnitude of growth, while providing the stability and necessary increased services, will be difficult. Some good questions that were discussed at the recent FARNET workshop on the transition to the new NSFNET included: 1. How and who will ensure that interconnection is ubiquitous? 2. How will cost and charges be handled? 3. How will "seamless problem solving" be achieved? 4. Who will set the ground rules for technical interactions? 5. What is the attitude toward providing enhanced privacy and security? 6. What kind of policy framework/governance needs to be established? What are the policy framework options for disputes and resolution of issues? How will policy issues and resolution of disputes be handled for users? 7. What resources are needed to achieve interruption-free service? 8. How will the positive aspects of the Internet culture be preserved? What are they? Can they be scaled up? ************************************************************ Robert G. Gillespie is principal in Robert Gillespie Associates, which focuses on national policy issues of computing and networking that affect higher education and library needs. He works with a coalition of organizations concerned with these issues that includes the American Library Association, the Association of American Universities, Association for Research Libraries, the Coalition for Networked Information, Educom, and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. ************************************************************ Questions and Answers on Internet Costs 2~~[p Word Work File D 4078TEXTMSTEXTMSWD(B~p~~~~p

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