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RFC 1527 - What Should We Plan Given the Dilemma of the Network?


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Network Working Group                                            G. Cook
Request for Comments: 1527                                   Cook Report
Category: Informational                                   September 1993

         What Should We Plan Given the Dilemma of the Network?

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard.  Distribution of this memo is
   unlimited.

Abstract

   Early last year, as the concluding effort of an 18 month appointment
   at the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), I drafted a
   potential policy framework for Congressional action on the National
   Research and Education Network (NREN).

   The Internet community needs to be asking what the most important
   policy issues facing the network are.  And given agreement on any
   particular set of policy issues, the next thing we should be asking
   is, what would be some of the political choices that would follow for
   Congress to make?

   It is unfortunate that this was never officially done for or by the
   Congress by OTA.  What we have as a result is network policy making
   being carried out now by the Science Subcommittee on the House side
   in consultation with a relatively small group of interested parties.
   The debate seems to be more focused on preserving turf than on any
   sweeping understanding of what the legislation is doing.  That is
   unfortunate.

   In the hope that it may contain some useful ideas, I offer a
   shortened version of the suggested policy draft as information for
   the Internet community.

Table of Contents

   The Dilemma of an Unregulated Public Resource in a Free Market
   Environment  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    2
   Regulation is a key NREN policy issue. . . . . . . . . . . . . .    3
   Technology Transfer Goals Achieved?  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    4
   The Context for Policy Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    4
   Whom Shall the Network Serve?  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    5
   Access to the NREN is a key policy issue . . . . . . . . . . . .    6
   How Far To Extend Network Access?  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    6

   A Corporation for Public Networking? . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    9
   Summary  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   14
   Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   17
   Author's Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   17

The Dilemma of an Unregulated Public Resource in a Free Market
Environment

   As currently structured, the NSFnet and american Internet provide
   access to several million researchers and educators, hundreds of
   thousands of remote computers, hundreds of databases, and hundreds of
   library catalogues.  Money being invested in the network as a result
   of the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) initiative
   should considerably increase the numbers and variety behind this
   unprecedented collection of resources.  No other computer network on
   earth currently comes close to providing access to the breadth and
   depth of people and information.  If access to information is access
   to power, access to the national computer network will mean access to
   very significant power.

   Furthermore, access to the american Internet and NREN is also
   access to the worldwide Internet.  According to the Director for
   International Programs at the NSF in February 1992, the development
   of the Internet over the past twelve years has been one of
   exponential growth:

               Date           Connected Hosts

               August 1981    213
               October 1985   1,961
               December 1987  28,174
               January 1989   80,000
               January 1991   376,000
               January 1992   727,000

   These hosts are computers to which anyone in the world with Internet
   access can instantaneously connect and use if there are publically
   available files.  Any host may also be used for remote computing if
   the system administrator gives the user private access.  These seven
   hundred thousand plus hosts are located in more than 38 nations.  But
   they are only part of the picture.  By system-to-system transfer of
   electronic mail they are linked to probably a million additional
   hosts.  According to Dr. Larry Landweber of the University of
   Wisconsin, as of February 10, 1992, Internet electronic mail was
   available in 106 nations and territories.

   Unfortunately, our current regulatory system does not distinguish
   between the unique nature of the Internet and commercial systems like
   Prodigy and Compuserve where perhaps a million people pay monthly
   fees for access to systems offering a few dozen databases run from
   two or three hosts and electronic mail to several hundred thousand
   people instead of many millions.  (The picture is made somewhat fuzzy
   by the fact that Compuserve does provide electronic mail access to
   the Internet through a gateway and for an extra charge.)  The Federal
   Communications Commission (FCC) considers all three to be Value Added
   Networks (VANs) run by Enhanced Service Providers.  All use common
   carriers to provide their enhanced services and the FCC, in refusing
   to regulate them, reasons that all services are roughly alike.  If,
   for example, Compuserve charges too much, the consumer can quit
   Compuserve and move to Prodigy.  Or, if the monthly cost of access to
   the Internet were to become too much, access to Prodigy or Compuserve
   would be basically the same thing.  Here unfortunately the analogy
   fails: the Internet now and the NREN to be, with its unparalleled
   resources, is not the same.  Nevertheless, the FCC points out that
   without Congressional action it is powerless to regulate NREN service
   providers.

Regulation is a key NREN policy issue.

   Perhaps there will be no need for regulation.  Hopefully, the
   marketplace for the provision of network services will remain
   competitive and higher prices and cream skimming will not keep the
   national network out of the reach of the general public who wish to
   avail themselves of what it has to offer.  However, given the scope
   and power of what is contemplated here, Congress should realize that
   there are important considerations of social and economic equity
   behind the question of access to the network.  This is especially
   true since libraries and groups representing primary and secondary
   schools are demanding what could be considered as universal access to
   the network without having any knowledge of how such access might be
   funded.

   The economic stakes are huge.  Other players such as US West's
   Advanced Communications division are entering the market and AT&T is
   expected to do so by the spring.  When combined with the award of the
   EINet backbone to Uunet, their entry should help to level the playing
   field.  While one company is less likely to dominate such an
   uncontrolled, unregulated market, those concerned about widespread
   affordable access to the network would do well to watch unfolding
   events with care.

Technology Transfer Goals Achieved?

   Policy makers may ask how much priority the Federal government should
   continue to give technology transfer in a market where the technology
   that allegedly still needs aiding is showing remarkable signs of
   maturity?  As they debate the course on which they wish to take the
   network over the next five years, policy makers may find that one
   answer to the apparent disparity between the emphasis in the
   legislation on the provision of the network by the government, and
   the growing number of commercial sources of network availability is
   that the market matured very rapidly while the HPCC legislation
   remained unchanged.

   In view of all the remarkable commercial achievements (outlined in
   this essay) in the four years since the NREN idea arose, perhaps the
   policy objective of technology transfer for economic competitiveness
   could be considered to be achieved!  A commercially viable high speed
   data networking industry, with the entrance of Sprint in January 1992
   and the anticipated entrance of AT&T, has reached maturity.

   Therefore, having successfully achieved its technology transfer
   goals, the Congress must decide whether to continue to underwrite the
   network as a tool in support of science and education goals.  It
   seems reasonable to assume that this support could be undertaken in a
   way that would not seriously undermine the commercial TCP/IP data
   networking market place.

The Context for Policy Setting

   In order to make informed choices of goals for the network, Congress
   must understand the context of a rapidly commercializing network.
   The resulting context is likely to produce serious impacts both on
   the user community and the development of future network technology.
   It is likely to make some goals more easily attainable than others.
   Given its maturity, the commercialization of TCP/IP wide area
   networking technology is inevitable.

   Some have already begun to question whether the government should be
   providing backbone services where commercial alternatives are
   currently available and are expected to grow in number.

   Supporters of the NREN vision argue that the NSF is using government
   funds to build a leading edge network faster than the commercial
   alternatives.  They say that use of public funds on such technology
   development is appropriate.  Their critics state that the T-3
   technology (also called DS-3) is dead end and point out that the next
   logical step is refining the network so that it can use ATM and
   SONET.  For aggregate gigabit speeds along the backbone, use of ATM

   and SONET will be necessary.  Critics claim that the T-1 backbone
   could be engineered to accommodate the network for a while longer
   while Federal funds would be more appropriately invested now in an
   ATM and SONET development effort.  They say that Federal policy is
   being used to enable IBM to have a testbed for the development of
   DS-3 TCP/IP routers when Network Technologies makes a comparable
   product that is already proven and reliable.  Whether the Federal
   Government should be providing backbone services or merely support
   for access and improved network features is a key policy issue.

   Finding the best answer to the questions raised by this issue is
   likely to center on the ability of the Federal mission agencies
   involved in high speed network development to articulate a long term
   plan for the development of new network technology over the next
   decade.  How we shall use what is learned in the gigabit testbeds has
   not yet been clearly addressed by policy makers.  Continuation of the
   testbeds is currently uncertain. There is also no plan to apply the
   outcome to the production NREN.  These are areas deserving of federal
   involvement.  The current players seem to be incapable of addressing
   them.  Some possible courses of Federal action will be identified in
   the discussion of a Corporation for Public Networking to follow.

   In the meantime, we face a period of four to five years where the NSF
   is scheduled to take the NSFnet backbone through one more bid.  While
   Federal support for the current production backbone may be
   questionable on technology grounds, policy makers, before setting
   different alternatives:

          -    must understand very clearly the dual policy drivers
               behind the NREN,

          -    must define very clearly the objectives of the network,
               and

          -    must carefully define a both a plan and perhaps a
               governing mechanism for their achievement.

   A sudden withdrawal of Federal support for the backbone would be
   likely to make a chaotic situation more so.  However, the application
   of focused planning could define potentially productive alternatives
   to current policies that could be applied by the time of the backbone
   award announcement in April of 1993.

Whom Shall the Network Serve?

   The HPCC legislation gives the FCCSET a year to prepare a report to
   the Congress on goals for the network's eventual privatization.
   Thanks to the NSF's decision to rebid the backbone, this task may no

   longer be rendered moot by premature network privatization.  The
   FCCSET Report needs to address many questions.

   One question is the extent to which, in the higher education
   environment, Congress through the National Science Foundation, or
   perhaps through another entity of its own choosing will continue to
   underwrite networking.  A related question is whether or when
   Congress should act in order to preserve a competitive networking
   provider environment.  A question subsidiary to this is whether a
   competitive commercial environment is adequate to ensure a fertile
   data networking technical R&D environment?  Another related question
   centers on what is necessary to preserve network access that is as
   widely available to post-secondary education as possible?  Further
   issues center on what type of access to promote.  Should Congress
   support the addition to the network of many of the expensive
   capabilities promoted by the advocates of the NREN vision?   What if
   funds spent here mean that other constituencies such as K-12 do not
   get adequate support?

Access to the NREN is a key policy issue.

   If network use is as important for improving research and education
   as its supporters allege it to be, Congress may wish to address the
   issue of why, at institutions presently connected to the network,
   only a small minority of students and faculty are active users.  If
   it examines the network reality carefully, Congress may sense that it
   is time to leverage investment in the network by improving the
   network's visibility and usability within the communities it is
   supposed to serve through improved documentation and training rather
   than by blindly underwriting massive increases in speed.

How Far To Extend Network Access?

   With the broadening discussion of the NREN vision, expectations of
   many segments of the population not originally intended to be served
   by the network have been raised.  An avid group of educators wishing
   to use the network in K-12 education has arisen.  If
   commercialization brought significant price increases, it could
   endanger the very access these educators now have to the network.

   Native Americans have begun to ask for access to the network.  How
   will Congress respond to them?  And to the general library community
   which with the Coalition for Networked Information has been avidly
   pressing its desires for NREN funds?  And to state and local
   government networks?

   Congress should recognize that choices about network access for these
   broader constituencies will be made at two levels.  Access for large

   numbers could be purchased by the government from commercial
   providers at considerable expense - an unlikely development in view
   of the Federal budget deficit.  In the meantime, given the current
   mix of government supported and commercial providers, the environment
   for these user classes is quite competitive.  Those who are able to
   pay their own way can generally gain access to the network from a
   choice of providers at reasonable cost.  Congress can act on behalf
   of these constituencies by ensuring that the market for the
   provisioning of network services remains open and competitive.  Short
   of either regulating the industry or establishing a new government
   operated network, careful use of subsidies will have the most impact
   on ensuring an open and competitive network.  Congress can also
   choose to view access as a function of price.  If Congress does opt
   for this course, it has several choices to ensure that prices will be
   affordable.  It could seek to impose regulations on the network
   providers through the FCC at a national level or urge the state PUCs
   to do it at the local level.  (Of course the viability of state PUC
   regulation, becomes questionable by the near certainty that there
   would be little uniformity in how the PUCs in each state would treat
   a national service.)  Congress also could impose a tariff on network
   providers profits and use the tariff to subsidize universal access.
   It should, of course, understand that these courses of action would
   raise touchy questions of conflicts between Federal and state
   jurisdiction.

   Congress may also have been vague in dealing with these broader
   network constituencies, because it wishes to sidestep making these
   difficult choices.  The origin of most of these choices may be traced
   to the addition of education policy goals for the Network symbolized
   by the changing of its name from the National Research Network to the
   National Research and Education Network in the OSTP Program Plan in
   September 1989. While this action got the attention and support of
   new constituencies for the Network, it did not bring any significant
   shift to the science and mission agency oriented direction of network
   development.  The legislation remained essentially unchanged:
   "educators and educational institutions" were as specific as the
   language of the bills ever got.  Perhaps this was almost on purpose?
   Having goals that were more specific might imply the need to justify
   with some precision why some individual segments of the networking
   community deserved service while some did not.

   Unless Congress were able to construct a separate rationale for the
   needs of each of the network constituencies - from supercomputer
   users to grade school students - specific goal setting by Congress
   might imply that Congress was arbitrarily judging some network
   constituencies to be more worthy than others.  This would be a
   difficult course to follow because those who were left out would want
   to know what the basis for such a judgment would be?  Solid answers

   would be difficult to come by because networking as enabling
   educational technology is so new that no one is as yet quite sure how
   to measure its value.  Without such assurances, it may be difficult
   for Congress to know how to justify its spread on any other grounds
   than equity of opportunity.

   Indeed there is a constituency of grass roots-oriented, small-scale
   network builders allied with elements of the library community.  This
   constituency suggests that computer networks will very quickly become
   such powerful means of access to information that lack of access to
   them will soon will carry serious implications for social and
   economic equity within the nation.

   These groups can be expected to be very vocal in their demands that
   some minimal level of access to the national network be widely
   available and affordable.  They are likely to ask that Congress turn
   its attention to the feasibility of establishing the goal of
   universal access to the national network.  Although the technology
   and economic conditions are quite different from the conditions of
   the 1934 Communications Act, they are likely to demand action
   analogous to that.

   Motivated by these concerns, Mitch Kapor has been arguing very
   eloquently for the building of the NREN as a National Public Network.
   Asked to define what he saw as being at stake, he said the following
   to the author in September 1991:

      "Information networking is the ability to communicate by means of
      digitally-encoded information, whether text, voice, graphics, or
      video.  Increasingly, it will become the major means for
      participation in education, commerce, entertainment, and other
      important social functions.  It is therefore important that all
      citizens, not just the affluent, have the opportunity to
      participate in this new medium.  To exclude some is to cut them
      off from the very means by which they can advance themselves to
      join the political social and economic mainstream and so consign
      them to second-class status forever.  This argument is analogous
      to that which was made in favor of universal voice telephone
      service - full social participation in American life would require
      access to a telephone in the home."

   Kapor through his Electronic Frontier Foundation, (EFF) is working
   hard to make sure that Congress is compelled to address the question
   of universal network access.  The EFF has also begun to press for the
   use of ISDN as a technologically affordable means of bringing the
   benefits of a national network to all Americans.

   If Congress wishes to promote widespread access to the network and to

   design an network that is amenable to widespread use, it will do well
   to examine carefully the position that the EFF is articulating.  It
   would also do well to look outside the confines of the Federal
   Networking Council (FNC) and the FNC Advisory Commission that is made
   up of members similar in orientation to the FNC and is scheduled for
   only four meetings and a two-year-long existence.  If it wishes to
   increase secondary and elementary school access to the network, it
   could investigate enlarging the very small role granted by the
   legislation to the Department of Education.  Unfortunately, without
   careful planning what would be gained by this is unclear.  The
   Department of Education has never played a significant role in
   computer networking.  The immediate needs of the K-12 arena are
   focused mainly around maintaining the existence of affordable low
   bandwidth access and the support of successful pioneering efforts.

   When Congress states its intentions for the scope of access to the
   network and, as a part of doing so, sets priorities for investment in
   network bandwidth versus ease of use, it can then turn its attention
   only to one other area.

A Corporation for Public Networking?

   Network governance and oversight are key policy issues.

   If Congress has doubts about the current situation, it might want to
   consider the creation of an entity for NREN management, development,
   oversight and subsidization more neutral than the NSF.

   Action should be taken to ensure that any such an entity be more
   representative of the full network constituency than is the NSF.  If
   Congress decides to sanction network use by a community broader than
   the scientific and research elite, it must understand the importance
   of creating a forum that would bring together the complete range of
   stake holders in the national network.

   While such a forum would not have to be a carbon copy of the
   Corporation for Public Broadcasting, given the half billion dollars
   to be spent on the network over the next five years and the very
   confused and contentious policy picture, it might make sense to spend
   perhaps a million dollars a year on the creation of an independent
   oversight and planning agency for the network. Such an entity could
   report its findings to the Congress and respond to goals formulated
   by the Congress.

   Congress could declare the development and maintenance of a national
   public data network infrastructure a matter of national priority. It
   could make it clear the government will, as it does in issues of
   national transportation systems, the national financial system, and

   national communications systems, maintain an interest in the
   development and control of a system that serves both the goals of
   improved education and new technology development.

   To carry out such a mandate, a Corporation for Public Networking
   (CPN) could have fifteen governors nominated by the members of the
   network community and subject to the approval of the Congress.

   Each governor would represent a network constituency.

               1. The NSF
               2. Department of Energy
               3. National Aeronautics & Space Administration
               4. Advanced Research Projects Agency
               5. Corporate Users
               6. K-12
               7. Higher Education
               8. Public Libraries & State and Local Networks
               9. Commercial Network Information Service Providers
              10. Interexchange Carriers such as AT&T, MCI, Sprint, etc.
              11. The Regional Bell Operating Companies
              12. Personal Computer Users
              13. Computer Manufacturers
              14. Disabled Users
              15. University Computing

   Since the legislation calls for backbone nodes in all 50 states, such
   a structure would be a reasonable way to coordinate Federal support
   for the network on a truly national basis - one that, by
   acknowledging the network as a national resource, would give
   representation to the full breadth of its constituencies.  Governors
   could use the network to sample and help to articulate the national
   concerns of their respective constituencies.

   If it adopted these goals, Congress could give a CPN a range of
   powers:

         1.   The CPN could be a forum for the expression of the
              interests of all NREN constituencies.  In the event the
              network were to be administered by the NSF, it could be
              serve as a much more accurate sounding board of network
              user concerns than the FNC or the FNC Advisory Council.

         2.   The CPN could be authorized to make recommendations to NSF
              and other agencies about how funds should be distributed.

              Such recommendations could include truly independent
              assessments of the technical needs of the network

              community and the most cost effective ways of achieving
              them.

         3.   The CPN could itself be given responsibility for funding
              distribution.  Such responsibilities would incur an
              increase in administrative costs and staff.  Nevertheless,
              by creating an opportunity to start a process from scratch
              and one that would consequently be free of the vested
              interests of the National Science Foundation in high-end
              network solutions, Congress would likely get a clearer
              picture of where and how effectively public monies were
              being expended. With such responsibility the CPN could
              also keep extensive pressure on network providers to
              remain interconnected.  When thinking about cost, Congress
              should also remember that effective oversight of subsidies
              funneled through NSF would imply the hiring of extra staff
              within that agency as well.

         4.   Congress might want to ask a CPN to examine the use of the
              $200 million in NREN R&D monies. Policy direction
              dictating the spending of Federal funds is still suffering
              from the fuzzy boundaries between the network as a tool
              for leveraging technology competitiveness into commercial
              networking environments and the network as a tool to
              facilitate science and education.  If Congress decides
              that the major policy direction of the network should be
              to develop the network for use as a tool in support of
              science and education, then it may want monies directed
              toward ARPA to be focused on improved databases, user
              interfaces and user tools like knowbots rather than a
              faster network used by fewer and fewer people.  A CPN that
              was representative of the breadth of the network's user
              constituencies could provide better guidance than the
              FCCSET or ARPA for spending Federal subsidies aimed at
              adding new capabilities to the network.

         5.   Additional levels of involvement could have the CPN act as
              a national quasi-board of networking public utilities.  It
              could be given an opportunity to promote low cost access
              plans developed by commercial providers.  If it borrowed
              some of the fund raising structure of National Public
              Radio, it should be able to raise very significant funds
              from grass roots users at the individual and small
              business level who are made to feel that they have a stake
              in its operation.

         6.   If congress wanted to increase further the role given the
              CPN, it could decide that with network commercialization

              and technology transfer goals completed, the majority of
              the NREN funds go to the CPN which could then put out a
              bid for a CPN backbone.  In effect Congress could dictate
              that the backbone announced by the NSF for implementation
              in 1993 be implemented and run as a joint project between
              the NSF and a CPN.

              All entities should be considered eligible to join and use
              the CPN in support of research and education.  Commercial
              companies who wanted to use the CPN to interact with the
              academic community should pay a commercial rate to do so.

              With the availability of a parallel commercial network,
              commercial restrictions on the CPN could be very much
              loosened to include anything in support of research and
              education.  The CPN would study and report to Congress on
              how gateways between commercial TCP/IP networks and the
              CPN network could be maintained.

         7.   Some suggest that the Congress go even further. These
              people emphasize that a replacement for the R&D aspects of
              the Internet in the context of commercialization and
              privatization is uncertain.  Bell Labs and Bellcore remain
              as the research arms of the Public Switched Telephone
              Network.  However neither of them have ever developed
              major strengths in wide area data networking. Nor do they
              appear to be likely to do so in the near future.  Despite
              this situation, the major private investment made in the
              Gigabit Testbeds indicate that the american
              telecommunications industry feels a need to invest in
              continued research.  This is something that the current
              commercial players are too small to do.  Furthermore, it
              is something that the larger players driven by pressure to
              report quarterly profits may find difficult to do.

              Congress could make a decision that Federal investment in
              the technology should emphasize less pump-priming to
              increase the pace of what most see as inevitable
              commercialization and more the continued building of new
              networking technology for both technology transfer and
              support of the technology as an enabling tool.  In this
              case Congress could direct the CPN to plan, deploy and
              manage a state of the art public information
              infrastructure. With goals for constituencies and levels
              of service defined, the CPN could produce for Congress
              multiple scenarios for developing and maintaining two
              networks.

              The first would be an experimental network where the very
              newest technologies could be explored.  It could be very
              similar to the current gigabit testbeds but this time with
              all five projects linked together.  The second would be a
              state-of-the-art operational network that can provide wide
              spread field trials of technology developed on the
              experimental network. With the maturation of the
              technology on the operational network it would be
              available for open transfer to commercial service.  It
              should be remembered that such a continuous widespread
              network R&D environment would provide wide spread training
              experience for graduate students that would otherwise be
              unavailable.

              Initial seed money would come from public funds. However,
              the bulk of support could come from a percentage of
              profits (as cash or in kind contributions) that
              participating companies would be required to contribute to
              the CPN as the price of admission for developing and
              benefiting from new technology.  Care should be taken in
              structuring contributions in a way that small start-up
              firms would not be locked out.  To ensure this, Congress
              could mandate that the CPN commissioners (perhaps with
              appropriate oversight from the National Academy of
              Sciences, the IEEE, or the ACM) develop a plan to ensure
              that the cost of entry to such a testbed not exceed the
              capitalization of the current small commercial players.

              It could also require the development of proposals to
              handle the issues of interconnection billing, billing for
              actual use versus size of connection, and interoperability
              among network providers.

              A different financing model could be explored if the CPN
              were instructed to report on the feasibility of selling
              shares to commercial carriers in a national networking
              testbed and R&E network where carriers could, over a long
              term basis, develop and mature new networking technologies
              before transferring them to the commercial marketplace.

        8.    In its November 1, 1991 recommendations to the National
              Science Foundation, FARNET suggested that the NSF should
              consider the issuance of several separate solicitations
              for the development of software tools for end-user
              applications and network management and operations.  To
              emphasize its point it added:  "we believe that the lack
              of useful tools for information retrieval and display is
              one of the biggest impediments to the productive use of

              the network and has impaired the credibility of the NREN
              in the eyes of the target user populations."  FARNET
              admonished the NSF to emphasize open architectures and
              standards in its solicitations, adding that "where
              standards are not adequately understood or developed, the
              NSF should support programs to test, evaluate and improve
              them."

              FARNET concluded by recommending

                   "that the NSF, working with the user community and
                   the providers, define and implement clear criteria
                   for the award of additional funding to mid-level and
                   campus networks . . . The new criteria should be
                   designed to further . . . goals such as the extension
                   of network services to new or underserved communities
                   (for ubiquity); the improvement of network
                   operations, procedures and tools (for reliability);
                   the enhancement of existing services through
                   development activities, upgrading of existing
                   connections to 'have not' institutions; leveraging of
                   state, local, and private funds (to maximize the
                   impact of Federal investment), and training and
                   support for end-users (in cooperation with national
                   and local programs)."

              If a CPN is created, it should be directly involved with
              working toward these important goals.  If implementation
              of the network is left to the National Science Foundation,
              Congress should emphasize the importance of the NSF's
              meeting these goals.

         9.   Finally, a strong and broad-based CPN might be able to
              make recommendations to Congress on the identification and
              resolution of problems of telecommunications policy
              engendered by the continued growth of this network
              technology.  It could perhaps play an educational role in
              advising state Public Utilities Commissions on the long
              term implications of their decisions.

Summary

   Policy makers must soon decide whether the National Research and
   Education Network is a public or a private good.  Although
   privatization appears to be proceeding apace, since the network
   backbone will be rebid, there should be time for some careful
   planning for the development and evolution of what can, within 10 to
   20 years, become an extraordinarily powerful system that is as

   ubiquitous as the current telephone network and provides all
   Americans with access to information in much the same way as public
   libraries were created for a similar purpose a century ago.

   Congress must understand that the NREN is not just a new technology
   (indeed much is of it is old technology), but has the potential to
   become the most powerful means of access to information ever created.
   Within this context it must decide whom the NREN shall serve.  It
   must decide whom shall have access to the NREN.

   Once it has done this further options fall into four major areas:

              First:    Congress must decide degree of oversight
                        that is necessary to extend to the network. Such
                        oversight could range from legislating that the
                        FCC regulate the network, to strict reviews of
                        the NSF's actions, to vesting oversight powers
                        in a Corporation for Public Networking.

              Second:   It must decide whether the appropriate place to
                        subsidize technology transfer is within a
                        privatized operational NREN or within the
                        experimental gigabit testbeds.  Without a better
                        understanding both of how the technologies are
                        evolving in the commercial market place, and the
                        evolution of both the testbeds and the NREN, it
                        will be difficult to make make a wise decision.
                        In addition, we must expect that the nature of
                        its choice will be further influenced by its
                        decision on whom the network is to serve.

              Third:    It must decide whether to subsidize a backbone
                        for an NREN.  If it does subsidize such a
                        backbone, it must decide whether it shall be
                        built as a private network or as a part of the
                        PSTN.

              Fourth:   It must decide whether to subsidize additional
                        connectivity or broader use within connected
                        institutions or both.  In other words, should
                        more institutions be connected to the network,
                        or should the network be made easier to use by
                        the members of those institutions already
                        connected?

   To the extent that Congress chooses to pursue options three and four,
   it will want to explore the scenario for the Corporation for Public
   Networking discussed above.

   Access to information is access to power.  The creation of a National
   Research and Education Network based on the NSFnet and the remainder
   of the american Internet will mean the creation of a national
   information access system of unprecedented power.  In its ability to
   affect the lives and well being of Americans, the NREN, if properly
   designed, will be just as significant as the national Interstate
   highway system and the national electric power grid.  The national
   highway, or the national power grid, or the national telephone system
   could serve as models for implementation.  The Federal Government
   provides a public but otherwise unregulated Interstate highway system
   with universal access available to all Americans.  Private industry
   provides our electric power.  However, it was allowed to do so only
   in return for submitting to Federal and state regulation designed to
   ensure affordable national access by all citizens. The national
   telephone system has been established under a similar "social
   contract".  If the nation is not to be dangerously split into
   information rich and information poor classes, policy makers have
   about five years in which to choose a Federally provided National
   network, or a privately provided but nationally regulated network.

   During the development and maturation of the national network, policy
   makers should also be very attentive to its impact on the public
   switched telephone network (PSTN). The technology involved and the
   speed with which it is changing will only increase the potentially
   serious impact from the freedom of unregulated components of the
   telecommunications industry to pursue market solutions that will keep
   regulated companies from becoming viable players.  We must realize
   that we are about to enter a power struggle for the control of the
   information resources of the 21st century that promises to be every
   bit as harsh and bruising as the power struggle for natural resources
   was at the end of the last century.

   While the intentions of most appear to be good, as this study has
   shown, the playing field is terribly confused. Gigabit technology (if
   properly understood) is desirable. Still we should take great care
   that its cost does not raise the price of low bandwidth or "low end"
   entry into the network.

   Lack of a specific definition of communities to be served, lack of an
   agreed upon plan for how they shall be served, and lack of funds to
   serve everyone have combined to create the present chaotic situation
   in which many of the players have been motivated primarily by a
   desire to increase their institutional role in order to get larger
   Federal allocations of funds.

   In the absence of both a well-thought-out plan agreed to by all
   parties and adequate monetary support, the grand push to accelerate
   both the speed and scope of the technology could have the ironic role

   of weakening the entire foundation of the network.  Until the
   Congress provides more direction, the squabbling that has developed
   is likely to continue.  In the absence of such direction, at best
   large sums of public funds may be ineffectively spent, and at worst a
   picture of empire building could emerge that would make any Federal
   support for research or educational networking unlikely.

   Such an outcome should be avoided because the potential of a well
   designed and developed network to do great good in both policy arenas
   is very significant.  Unfortunately with the NSF under mounting
   criticism, ANS on the defensive and rumored to be financially
   weakened, and Congressional hearings scheduled for mid-March, the
   potential for a destructive free-for-all is very great.

Security Considerations

   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

Author's Address

   Gordon Cook, Editor and Publisher
   COOK Report on Internet
   431 Greenway Ave
   Ewing, NJ 08618

   Phone: (609) 882-2572
   EMail: cook@path.net

 

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