An ISP is something like aÂ long distanceÂ phone company, in that it gives subscribers access to aÂ long distanceÂ communications network. Both the ISP and theÂ long distanceÂ carrier incorporate local phone connections in their overall network. Both pay theÂ local phone companyÂ for, in effect, reselling the capacity of the local phone network. But they pay different rates. The ISP pays the same rate as any business that uses the phone network to make local calls. TheÂ long distanceÂ carrier pays "access charges." Access charges are much higher than local phone rates, as high as five cents per minute.
Access charges originated in the early 1980s as an FCC-sanctioned way forÂ long distanceÂ service to subsidize local phone service. In 1987, well before the Internet became popular, the phone companies wanted the FCC to apply access charges to enhanced service packetÂ data networksÂ like Telenet and Tymnet, but Congress objected, and everyone lost interest in the issue. Now, with the rise ofÂ Internet telephony, the phone companies are at it again. They want their subsidies.
The current expectation is that the FCC will overhaul access charges in the 1997-'98 time frame. ISPs will have to pay access charges. But the rates will be knocked down from five cents per minute to a few tenths of a cent.
TheÂ network designÂ issueÂ
The new argument from the phone companies is thatÂ Internet trafficÂ is different from voice traffic, so different that it could crash the phone network.
Wait a minute. Let's take a closer look at this argument. Sure, phone call durations might be longer when I surf the 'Net than when I talk to my mother in Florida, but what are the cost and engineering implications?
By the way, even the phone industry agrees that voice call durations have increased over the years. It used to be that an average phone call would last four minutes; now, the phone industry uses nine minutes as the average holding time.
My local loop and the connection to the local phone switch are dedicated to my phone number, whether I use it or not. The cost is independent of the duration of my calls.
The local switch gives me dialtone, interprets my dial pulses and arranges for a path through the network to be established. But that happens only when the call is dialed. After that, the switch circuitry goes on to set up the next call. Most of the usage of the telephone switch circuitry is independent of call duration.
But the phone industry is right about one element. There is a part of the network that is affected by call duration, the trunking between local switches. This is because the phone network assigns a circuit full time to a connection between switches, even though you might be sending and receiving data packets only sporadically.
But rather than figuring out how these trunks can be shared among multiple Internet connections so they can be used more efficiently, the phone companies are now spreading scare stories about the Internet causing a possible "meltdown" of the phone network.
TheÂ monopolyÂ mindsetÂ
It's the same old story, but now with the local phone monopolies instead of a single nationwide Ma Bell. "Here's our network and our service; you must tailor your demand so it fits what we have."
Let's look at another part of the Internet, the intercity high-speed dataÂ circuitsÂ between ISPs. One of the leading suppliers of this service is MCI. MCI took its intercity fiber network, which was installed for voice telephone traffic, and figured out how to use it efficiently for high-speed data.
MCI saw the Internet as an opportunity, not a threat, and modified itsÂ network designÂ to satisfy user needs. And the company earned a profit while doing it.
TheÂ phone companyÂ engineering philosophy has been stability, not agility. But the world is changing. Stability fits quite nicely with aÂ monopolyÂ environment. But "brand loyalty" is on its way out. Have you noticed that in the cable industry? It applies to the phone industry as well.
In the world of competition, companies must change, or die.
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Telephone Network- The public switched telephone network (PSTN) is the network of the world's public circuit-switched telephone networks, in much the same way that the Internet is the network of the world's public IP-based packet-switched networks. Originally a network of fixed-line analog telephone systems, the PSTN is now almost entirely digital, and now includes mobile as well as fixed telephones.
The PSTN is largely governed by technical standards created by the ITU-T, and uses E.163/E.164 addresses (more commonly known as telephone numbers) for addressing.
Internet- The Internet is a worldwide, publicly accessible series of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). It is a "network of networks" that consists of millions of smaller domestic, academic, business, and government networks, which together carry various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat, file transfer, and the interlinked web pages and other resources of the World Wide Web (WWW).
- they use a form of routing and switching to get calls to the right place, and data to the right place
- they use numbers as identifiers - telephone numbers and IP addresses
- friendly names are used by both, on the Internet DNS allows you to use www.yahoo.com, instead of remembering an IP address. Telephone numbers also have friendly names, like 1-800-GOFEDEX.
- no matter where you are, on the Internet, accessing a web site in the US, and a web site in any other country is identical. No fees, nor restrictions - technically that is. Some countries do restrict access based on their political beliefs/structures (i.e. China).
- Calling someone in the US vs. calling someone in another country means higher fees. Although you could use VOiP that would minimize it. But the point is, telephone networks have "tolls" all over the place...even calling a different area code within a small geographical area, could mean toll charges.
- Technology is different. On a telephone your voice (analog) is converted into digital for transmission to the other side of the call - and is likely again converted to analog so that the speaker on the other end can reproduce the sound of your voice. On the internet, it's digital all the way (text, images, files). Although audio does get converted by your speakers if you're listening online...
Extensive experience, lost hair, and a "No, I won't fix your computer shirt."
Well, the similarities are that they are the same for almost everything except the last mile. Once you get past the last mile, almost everything these days including voice, data, etc... winds up on the same fiber optic, ATM over SONET Internet backbone. Now or the last mile. The differences lie in how they connect their office to you. This can be done many ways including DSL, analog/modem, T1, Cable, Cellular, etc... There is no longer a difference between telephone and the Internet. Whether you make a phone call or browse a web page, it's getting converted to digital and fiber optic once it gets to your provider and going over the same channels.