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EFFector - Volume 2, Issue 5 - FCC Proposes to Allow Telcos to Deliver Video


EFFector - Volume 2, Issue 5 - FCC Proposes to Allow Telcos to Deliver Video

########## ########## ########## |                     VIDEO DIALTONE|
########## ########## ########## |          The FCC and Video-by-Wire|
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########   ########   ########   |                          CD/USENET|
########   ########   ########   |                Newsfeeds via Disk?|
####       ####       ####       |                                   |
########## ####       ####       |                                   |
########## ####       ####       |                                   |
                       PACIFIC TIME FEBRUARY 19                      |
EFFector Online           February 18,1992         Volume 2, Number 5|

                     THE PIONEER AWARDS:Nominations Deadline    

To date well over 150 nominations for the EFF/PIONEER Awards have been
received and the list alone would make for a fascinating series of
interviews and profiles.  Indeed, we're making it a point to put that
project in the list for things to get done in 1992.

There is still time for everyone out there who hasn't nominated the
person or organization they feel deserves recognition throughout known
cyberspace as a pioneering element the birth and growth of this new
medium to have their say.

Remember, the nominations are open and that anyone may nominate anyone
else -- even themselves.  Everyone is eligible except EFF staff members.

There's an entry form at the end of this issue of EFFector Online. If
you know anyone whose a genuine cyberspace pioneer worthy of recognition
please use it and use it quickly.

Nominations close at midnight, February 19, 1992 -- Pacific Time.

Thank you,


                FCC Proposes to Allow Telcos to Deliver Video;
                          by Andrew Blau
                      (EFF Washington Office)

Should the regional telephone companies be able to enter the cable
televion business?  Should the cable companies of the country be
protected from this potential competition?  There are arguments for both
sides. And the Federal Communications Commission has come up with a
proposal that just may be able to make the answer fair to both sides and
of benefit to the consumer at the same time.

On October 24, 1991, the Federal Communications Commission announced its
latest proposal for modifying the telphone company-cable television
cross ownership rules. These rules keep telephone companies (telcos) out
of the cable television business.  The FCC enacted these rules in 1970
in an effort to protect the then fledgling cable industry from a range
of anticompetitive practices by telcos seeking to maintain control over
wireline communications.

Rather than directly address whether telcos can get into the cable
business, the Commission is proposing that telcos can offer a "video
dialtone": an open line into a telco-operated distribution network,
available on a common carrier basis, that others can fill with video
signals, much like telcos now provide an open line to the telephone
network that a subscriber purchases in order to fill with audio signals
or data.  This proposal also reflects the Commission's attempts to
develop a policy framework that can accommodate video and other
enhanced electronic services offered over a single wire.

                      The Commission's Proposal

The Commission's video dialtone proposal was outlined in a three-part
release that described the Commission's scheme and reasoning and
requested public comment on it.

The first part holds the core of the Commission's proposal.  This
section describes video dialtone as "an enriched version of video common
carriage under which local exchange carriers (LECs) will offer various
non-programming services in addition to the underlying video transport."
The report suggests that video dialtone will facilitate "the provision
of additional non- programming services and of enhanced video gateways
including detailed menus, information search capabilities, and subcriber
driven data processing."  As such, it is a "'platform' through which
subscribers can access video and other information services."

The Commission has two models for how video dialtone might be
implemented and regulated.  The first approach (which it clearly favors)
has two levels.

Level one is a platform that gives users access to video and non-video
services on a non-discriminatory, common carrier basis, regulated like
other basic telephone services.  The platform would allow service
providers and subscribers to reach each other and would likely include
basic directory and routing functions.

On the second level, the LEC could provide its own advanced gateway and
related services on an unregulated basis, subject to competition from
other gateways and video services using the platform.

In the second approach, there is a single Advanced Gateway, through
which consumers could gain access to non-programming video services
(e.g., picturephone, videoconferencing) provided by either the LEC or
other service providers.  In this single-level model, the LEC would
provide certain enhanced features, such as navigational aids and search
capabilities, menus and other information to make the gateway easy to

The second part of the report was based on comments received in earlier
rounds of this proceeding.  It reflects the Commission's interpretation
of current law.

First, the Commission has concluded that the cross-ownership ban does
not apply to interexchange carriers such as AT&T or MCI, but only to
LECs.  As a result, interexchange carriers may enter the cable business
today, under the same conditions that apply to cable operators.

Second, the Commission has concluded that under a video dialtone model,
neither the telco, the programmer, nor the program packager is a cable
operator, and thus no party is obligated to obtain a cable franchise in
order to provide video service.  (For all practical purposes, this
undercuts the process by which cable operators are allowed to wire
communities and removes the local community from decisions about the
local communications infrastructure.)  By invoking its interpretive
authority, the Commission has chosen a strategy to promote telco
involvement in video that relieves it of having to ask Congress to
repeal the cross-ownership ban that was written into Federal law.

The third part of the report addresses two additional issues in a more
open-ended format.  First, the Commission returns to the question of
whether LECs should be allowed to become video programmers themselves
and how the video dialtone model affects the issue.  Second, the
Commission raises questions about whether the policy objectives it seeks
to promote are consistent with the incentives it provides.  In
particular, the Commission asks whether Commission policies discourage
investment in advanced technology.

                          The EFF's Position

In presentations before the FCC the EFF argued that the Commission's
underlying principles are strong, but that the proposal needs additional
'debugging' before it becomes policy.

EFF's position is that the Commission's model of integrating video and
non-video services in a common-carriage based framework is an excellent

EFF also fully supported the goals the Commission set for itself in this
proceeding: 1) to promote an advanced public infrastructure available at
reasonable charges ; 2) to foster competitive markets to meet advanced
communications needs ; and 3) to advance the bedrock First Amendment
value of diversity of information sources.  Finally, the EFF agreed with
the Commission that the video dialtone should be implemented so as to:
facilitate competition in the provision of services, be easy for the
average person to use, and be sufficiently flexible to accommodate new
technological developments.

The EFF's concerns fall into three general categories.  First, EFF
pointed out that the Commission was proposing an integrated framework
for voice, data and video services at the same time it has an open
inquiry into the potential architectures of advanced intelligent
networks, yet it has not made any arrangements for connecting the two.
As a result, EFF expressed concern that the Commission was going forward
with a policy framework without taking into account the architecture and
technical capabilities that network planners can already forsee.

Second, the EFF noted that the Commission's proposal all but assumes an
integrated broadband network, which is likely to be years away.  The EFF
suggested that the Commission not overlook the role that ISDN,
repositioned as a residential service, could play as a transitional
technology that could achieve many of these goals more quickly than
waiting for the broadband infrastructure on which the Commission's
proposal seems to be based.  In addition, by fostering an ISDN-based
platform, the Commission would be creating the conditions for consumer
interest and demand to develop, thereby avoiding the Commission's own
concern about "governmental edict" becoming the prime driver behind
network development.

Third, the EFF raised questions about whether the Commission's proposal
will accommodate the individual or non-commercial information provider.
Although the Commission is interested in ensuring that the video
dialtone is easy to use, they seem to be interested primarily in that
ease of use for consumers, while ignoring issues facing information
providers.  For example, the non- discriminatory tariffs proposed by the
Commission may become a problem depending on how they are set.  If rates
are set on the assumption that the primary users are large commercial
applications, whether it be Prodigy or Paramount Pictures, then smaller
providers such as individual, non-commercial BBS operators, or simply
individuals with a point of view to express electronically, may find
themselves priced out of the market.  Therefore, EFF suggested that the
Commission consider ensuring low or no-cost access for for
noncommercial, non-profit or individual information providers.

What's Next?

The Commission received formal comments from over 150 parties and well
over 230 letters on the issue.  Next it will accept reply comments
before it turns any parts of its proposal into policy.  There is no time
limit for the Commission to act, however, so that policy may not appear
for some time.


                Usenet on a CD-ROM, no longer a fable
                        by Ian Feldman

The latest tempest-in-a-teacup of hurricane proportions on Usenet is
raging quite nicely in the news.misc group. This time the subject matter
should be of interest to many, so here comes the nitty-gritty.

A company in the USA recently began offering Usenet-on-CD-ROM monthly
disks for a fee (approximately US$35 per disk, if memory serves me
right; $25 per issue if one subscribes to it). As a product goes it is
not expensive; in fact it is downright cheap all things considered.
Getting a full news feed each day from somewhere - even if from a nearby
friendly service - is bound to cost many times that in telephone charges
alone. On the other hand.... having the full monthly Usenet (ALL OF IT,
from all countries of the world, not solely from the USA) arrive in your
mailbox, even 2 to 4 weeks after the posting date, must be considered an
incredible and amazing opportunity.

Ah, to be able to peruse all 500+ MB of it at will, at one's
convenience, even without formal access to Usenet. Therefore all kudos
to the initiator, Sterling Software, and may they live long and prosper.
Thanks for that alternative news feed, even if it is a bit slooow. But
then, as someone recently said on the net, "there are few other media
that can beat the bandwidth of a truck full of CD-ROMs." ;-)

Of course, that... feeling of elation, for want of a better phrase, was
not what the storm was about. Rather than accept the service that
Sterling Software offers for what it effectively is, a different form of
the distribution of the net news, the rage was all about (1) them
charging you for the CD-ROMs (the horror! the horror!) and (2) them
infringing upon real or imagined intellectual property rights of the
posters to Usenet.

Sterling Software, in the words of its spokesman, Kent Landfield, makes
no claims as to the reuse of the public news that they supply. They view
themselves entirely as an alternative transport and archival service
(all those trucks full of CD-ROMs gathering dust ;-)) Thus anybody will
be free to put the contents of the NetNews/CD's up for use with FTP,
mount them for access in local BBS, import them into the WAIS (Wide Area
Information Service) and so on. The original posters' rights and
restrictions on reuse, if any, are still in force. The information on
CD-ROMs continues to be as free as it was in the beginning.

Yet, listening to some of the arguments being passed in the heat of the
discussion it becomes clear that in the mind of the flamers it
apparently is acceptable that UUNET, PSI, and other _commercial_ Usenet
providers charge for the telephone-accessed feeds, not to mention the
charges to the telephone services themselves, but it is definitely not
acceptable to offer an alternative that's cut in the plastic and
aluminum that the CD- ROMs are made of.

No, sireee, the latter is "publishing," therefore constitutes criminal
unauthorized infringing upon use of _their_ words which may not be
embossed in stone unless they get paid for it. Well, that's roughly how
the argumentative posters feel. At times it was outright funny, but
chiefly left me with a feeling of very limited and narrow minds now
trying to butter up the importance of their own egos, the written end
products of which are usually submitted in a Without-A-Thought[tm]
fashion to the net. Please observe that I claim full intellectual
property rights for the above expression, "Without-A- Thought[tm],"
which may not be used by anyone without written permission from the
undersigned. I waive that right for use by TidBITS and Sterling Software
however (yes, since TidBITS is distributed in the comp.sys.mac.digest
group it too will end up on the CD-ROMs).

The above was, of course, a bit sarcastic. But it illustrates well where
we'd soon be if the extreme arguments against the NetNews/CD product
were taken at a face value and adhered to universally. Anybody[tm] could
claim Sole Rights[tm] to Any Expression Whatsoever[tm]. Fortunately the
company in question has had the guts to face up to the potential
lawsuit-trigger-happy netters by, effectively, taking the legal grounds
for a suit out of their hands. In a recent message on the net they offer
every individual among those bent upon not allowing own contributions to
be distributed in plastic and aluminum to register with them on an
individual basis, asking them to remove any future posts of his or her
from the data mass prior to each monthly pressing of it. Fortunately the
CD-ROMs' contents are prepared by a special software that filters such
people's posts automatically so the process need not be that
complicated. One registered letter to the Sterling Software and they're
gone, gone, gone forever, and the rest of us are hardly worse off for

In the end the arrival of such a service may perhaps even lead some of
the current "I Post Therefore I Exist" submitters (it sounds even better
in Latin!) to consider twice whether or not to risk being an eternal (or
at least the life of a CD-ROM) subject of ridicule for posting offensive
or stupid stuff, an activity that up to now has largely been an
unpunishable offense.

Perhaps that in part accounted for the recent outburst on the net, that
the NetNews/CD effectively changes the rules of the game; from now on
self-censure becomes a necessity for all posts by all nominally
responsible, and wishing to retain that label, people.

The whole issue of the NetNews/CD is too vast and too important to be
presented here in depth; those interested with access to the Usenet may
try to read the relevant articles by visiting the /usr/spool/news/misc
at the earliest opportunity. Alternately, send email to the company
(addresses below) to be added to an administrative (cdnews) or a
directional (cddev) mailing list. The rest of you may now start feeling
being admitted AT LAST to the Real World[tm], where there is TOO
MUCH[tm] of practically everything; trust me,

I've been there and I wish not to live anywhere else but. 

Information from:
Ian Feldman -- 


"I've been working toward a consistent set of policies and a consistent
set of goals for five years. "We[NSF] know where we want to be. We want
to get out of the business. As soon as the government stops funding the
suppliers of networking and begins funding the users of net working,
it's the users who become responsible for appropriate use."
                                         --Stephen Wolff, who oversees 
                                           the Internet for NSF


                        CALL FOR NOMINATIONS
      (Attention: Please feel free to repost to all systems worldwide.)

In every field of human endeavor, there are those dedicated to expanding
knowledge, freedom, efficiency and utility.  Along the electronic
frontier,this is especially true.  To recognize this, the Electronic
Frontier Foundation has established the Pioneer Awards.  The first
annual Pioneer Awards will be given at the Second Annual Computers,
Freedom, and Privacy Conference in Washington, D.C. in March of 1992.

All valid nominations will be reviewed by a panel of outside judges
chosen for their knowledge of computer-based communications and the
technical, legal, and social issues involved in networking.

There are no specific categories for the Pioneer Awards, but the following
guidelines apply:
   1) The nominees must have made a substantial contribution to the
health,growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications.
   2) The contribution may be technical, social, economic or cultural.
   3) Nominations may be of individuals, systems, or organizations in the
private or public sectors.
   4) Nominations are open to all, and you may nominate more than one
recipient. You may nominate yourself or your organization.
   5) All nominations, to be valid, must contain your reasons, however
brief, on why you are nominating the individual or organization, along
with a means of contacting the nominee, and your own contact number. No
anonymous nominations will be allowed.
   5) Every person or organization, with the single exception of EFF
staff members, are eligible for Pioneer Awards.

You may nominate as many as you wish, but please use one form per
nomination. You may return the forms to us via email at:
You may mail them to us at:
             Pioneer Awards, EFF,
             155 Second Street
             Cambridge MA 02141.
You may FAX them to us at:
             (617) 864-0866.

Just tell us the name of the nominee, the phone number or email address
at which the nominee can be reached, and, most important, why you feel
the nominee deserves the award.  You can attach supporting documentation.
Please include your own name, address, and phone number.

We're looking for the Pioneers of the Electronic Frontier that have made
and are making a difference. Thanks for helping us find them,

The Electronic Frontier Foundation

              -------EFF Pioneer Awards Nomination Form------

Please return to the Electronic Frontier Foundation via email to:

or via surface mail to EFF 155 Second Street, Cambridge,MA 02141 USA;
or via FAX to USA (617)864-0866.


Title: __________________________________________________________________


Contact number or email address: ________________________________________

Reason for nomination:___________________________________________________











Your name and contact number:____________________________________________


Extra documentation attached: _______

              -------EFF Pioneer Awards Nomination Form------


In order to continue the work already begun and to expand our efforts
and activities into other realms of the electronic frontier, we need the
financial support of individuals and organizations.

If you support our goals and our work, you can show that support by
becoming a member now. Members receive our quarterly newsletter,
EFFECTOR, our bi-weekly electronic newsletter, EFFector Online (if you
have an electronic address that can be reached through the Net), and
special releases and other notices on our activities.  But because we
believe that support should be freely given, you can receive these
things even if you do not elect to become a member.

Your membership/donation is fully tax deductible.

Our memberships are $20.00 per year for students, $40.00 per year for
regular members.  You may, of course, donate more if you wish.

Our privacy policy: The Electronic Frontier Foundation will never, under
any circumstances, sell any part of its membership list.  We will, from
time to time, share this list with other non-profit organizations whose
work we determine to be in line with our goals.  But with us, member
privacy is the default. This means that you must actively grant us
permission to share your name with other groups. If you do not grant
explicit permission, we assume that you do not wish your membership
disclosed to any group for any reason.

---------------- MEMBERSHIP FORM ---------------<<<

Mail to: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Inc.
         155 Second St. #22
         Cambridge, MA 02141

I wish to become a member of the EFF  I enclose:$__________
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    [  ] I enclose an additional donation of $___________



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to my Mastercard [  ]  Visa [  ]  American Express [  ]


Expiration date: ____________

Signature: ________________________________________________


I hereby grant permission to the EFF to share my name with
other non-profit groups from time to time as it deems
appropriate   [ ].


Gordon's Restatement of Newman's Corollary to Godwin's Law: 
Libertarianism (pro, con, and internal faction fights) is *the* primordial 
netnews discussion topic. Anytime the debate shifts somewhere else, it must
eventually return to this fuel source. 


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