LINGUIST List 4.470

Wed 16 Jun 1993

FYI: Internet threat: real or not?

Editor for this issue: <>

[Moderators' note: we've received many copies of the message below, as well as an argument that the threat is mere rumor (see Moen's message). Since we simply don't know which is the case, we're posting news of the threat but urging caution--at least until any subscribers "in the know" have had a chance to comment.]


  1. Christopher Giordano, INTERNET FREE ACCESS THREATENED (fwd)
  2. Susan Ervin-Tripp, INTERNET
  4. Jane Edwards, Internet - from NSFNET director


Date: Mon, 7 Jun 93 11:16:49 EDT
From: Christopher Giordano <>
This may be of some interest to those of us within universities, and
will probably be of greater interest to those who are not piggybacking
on the backs of larger institutions, but are doing things on their
Forwarded message:
> pass this along to any other lists you're on.
> ric, knight of the nets
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> Most of you are probably aware of a plan to limit free use of
> INTERNET to "scientists" transmitting huge files and to start
> charging for e-mail. Apparently, this is the result of private
> telecommunications interests putting pressure on the National
> Science Foundation.
> If this plan is realized, it will mean that the majority of the
> approximately 15 million users of INTERNET will be cut off.
> Sadly, this is occurring just when the potential of this network
> was starting to be realized.
> Something must be DONE. We can not let private interests deprive
> us of access to INTERNET.
> I suggest that all concerned users register their protest/concern
> directly with Clinton and Gore via e-mail. Their e-mail address
> have recently been posted and they are:
> In addition, I also suggest that we identify the office in the
> NSF which is responsible for INTERNET and register electronic
> protests with them.
> Any help or suggestions would be appreciated, especially in
> locating the e-mail address for the office in the NSF.
> **********************************************************************
> * Carl H.A. Dassbach BITNET: DASSBACHMTUS5 *
> * Dept. of Social Sciences INTERNET: DASSBACHMTUS5.CTS.MTU.EDU *
> * Michigan Technological Univ. PHONE: (906)487-2115 *
> * Houghton, MI 49931 FAX: (906)487-2468 *
> * U.S.A. *
> **********************************************************************
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Message 2: INTERNET

Date: Tue, 8 Jun 93 09:22:31 -0700
From: Susan Ervin-Tripp <ervin-trcogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
>From SCIENCE 21 May 93:
"The gist of the new guidelines is this: After years of subsidizing
network use for researchers, NSF will no longer offer a free ride to
all. Pressured by computer and telecommunications companies to get out
of day-to-day networking and let the free market take over, NSF will over
the next few years force most researchers to start using commercial networks,
on their own dime....NSFNET director Stephen Wolff says NSF will
subsidize the use of commercial networks by allowing researchers to charge
networking fees to their NSF grants, or perhaps by letting universities
bill the charges to their indirect cost accounts.
...Although the commercial networks that other researchers [than the
transmitters of vast amounts of data] are supposed to use are in short
supply today, NSF anticipates that this new market of researchers needing
network access would push the private sector to build more. NSF will use
the usual peer-review process to decide who gets access to NSFNET. And
a congressional bill introduced last month by Representative Rick Boucher
(D-VA) would cement the NSF policy in legislation."
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Date: 8 Jun 1993 16:01:31 -0800
From: "Rick Moen" <>
Michael, thanks for the note. You should know, however, that this
message has a couple of fishy things about it:
First, there is no reference to any sort of docket number, published
document, meeting proceeds, or even so much as a newspaper
article. The closest that the speaker comes to attribution is "most
of you are probably aware of a plan...." As documentation, this is
simply pathetic: We are not only not given any evidence of a plan,
but it also is described to us in a fashion almost tailor-made to
prevent its being verified or ruled out. Doesn't this get your
suspicions up that this may well be a fabrication? It does mine.
It brings to mind the "FCC modem tax" rumour that continues to
surface every year or so and cause hysteria among newcomers
to on-line communications: the same vagueness right where the
information required to confirm it ought to be, the same frenzied
tone and use of phrases in all caps. As I said, pathetic.
Second, major assertions in it are wrong, wrong, wrong. (1) It assumes
that the NSF controls the Internet. Wrong, wrong, a thousand times
wrong. NSF funds a small fragment of Internet traffic, and
effectively controls next to none of it. (2) Contrary to the author's
assertion, the Internet is _many_ times larger than 15 million users.
See Quarterman's _Matrix News_. (3) It assumes that unnamed
"private interests" can "deprive us of access to [the] Internet". (I'm
correcting the author's capitalisation and usage.) This assumption
betrays a fundamental failure to comprehend the nature of the Internet,
a conglomeration of independent sites with no overall administration
(in any real sense) whatsoever.
Please don't be an idiot and add to the flood of ignorant, pointless
e-mail that will no doubt be swamping the White House because of
this lunacy. On second thought, "lunacy" is being charitable: It may
be a malicious hoax, an attempt to sabotage the White House e-mail
presence by overloading it with junk postings. I don't think it's
cute or funny, myself.
Rick Moen
or 76711,243 on CompuServe
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Message 4: Internet - from NSFNET director

Date: Wed, 9 Jun 93 13:22:42 -0700
From: Jane Edwards <edwardscogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: Internet - from NSFNET director
The following is from LN. Without wishing to cause any additional
electronic discomfort, I have to say that giving this situation the
status of "rumor" seems distinctly odd to me in light of:
(a) the May 21 Science article describing explicitly the NSF plan to
change its policy, citing NSFNET director Wolff as the source of information,
and mentioning Boucher's congressional bill to cement the plan (i.e.,
the documentation wished for in other postings yesterday), and:
(b) the final paragraphs of the NSF reply below, which seem to conform
to the Science article, though couched somewhat more vaguely and with
somewhat more reassurances (.. a bad combination in my view). Please
note in particular the following sentence:
>>the NSF will switch from supplier funding to user funding.
In retrospect I would have excised Dassbach's suggestion that people
deluge the White House with email (though I fully believe he suggested
it in good faith, rather than out of maliciousness). But I personally
wish there were some way that we could anticipate the effects of this
change in policy, and if they look dire, then to potentially affect
them. During budget crises there may be many monetary adjustments -
esp. when no one knows enough to be able to object. I find Wolff's
response far too reassuring given its commensurate lack of detail.
Does AAAS (or something) have a lobby which is looking out for our best
interests in these areas?
-Jane Edwards (
>Date: Wed, 9 Jun 93 09:32:33 PDT
>From: Francois Andry <>
>Subject: Info: Internet
>Here is the official National Science Foundation response to this
>rumor which has been sent to our lab (SRI) yesterday. Hope
>this will ease your anxiety.
>Best regards.
>Francois Andry
>>From perrault Mon Jun 7 17:09:39 1993
>>Date: Mon, 7 Jun 93 17:09:14 PDT
>>From: Ray Perrault <perrault>
>>Here's the official NSF response to the rumor that there were going to
>>be big changes in how Internet services were to be charged. --r
>> ---------------
>>Date: Mon, 7 Jun 93 15:17:05 PDT
>>From: "Franklin F. Kuo" <>
>>>Date: Mon, 07 Jun 93 18:01:57 EDT
>>>From: Stephen Wolff <>
>>>Frank - you ought to know better! Here's the NSF response to this crazy
>>>inflammatory rot. Cheers, -s
>>>This is the responsible office in the NSF, and I am the responsible person.
>>>There is no "plan to limit free use of INTERNET..."
>>>In the first place, there is no such thing as "free use of INTERNET". Each
>>>and every institution with Internet access pays a service provider real money
>>>every year for the institution's connection. Most institutions do not
>>>however trickle those charges down to users, but pay for them out of general
>>>operating funds.
>>>Service providers, most of whom serve a limited geographical area, attain
>>>national and international coverage via the NSFNET BackBone Service, which
>>>has hitherto been centrally funded by an award to Merit, Inc. and provided
>>>to the regional service providers at no charge.
>>>Since the beginning of the current NSFNET Backbone Service in 1987, a lively
>>>and competitive commercial market in Internet carriage has emerged, with
>>>multiple vendors offering robust, nationwide, commodity-level services.
>>>Continued centralized funding of a Backbone Service by the Foundation is no
>>>longer justified, as it would place the Federal government in direct
>>>competition with the private sector.
>>>Awards made under the currently active solicitation will include awards to
>>>regional networks to purchase backbone service on the open market. That is,
>>>the NSF will switch from supplier funding to user funding.
>>>The NSF is committed to continuity of network service to the research and
>>>education community; we will take whatever steps are necessary to assure it.
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