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1997 Small Internet Service Provider Survey

Voters Telecommunications Watch

January 23, 1997



As you've known from the past, the Voters Telecommunications Watch keeps an eye on Internet civil liberties. The large system and service providers, AT&T, AOL, Microsoft, and the like, have their own legislative lobbying and public relations efforts. Small ISPs have no such resources. Over the past two years VTW has lobbied in Washington on behalf of small ISP interests on such issues as digital telephony, cryptography, and the Communications Decency Act. A healthy, vibrant, competitive, and diverse small ISP market is necessary to the survival of online civil liberties. Very little is known about the small ISP market though, and less is known about trends in that market.

A significant portion of the coming year will be spent fighting threats to online civil liberties and the small ISP industry. To guide us, we need your help. Most importantly, we need to get a good sense of the size and shape of the small ISP industry. How many members do you have? What part of your business is waxing or waning? Have you been the victim of a customer who engaged in unsolicited commercial email? Has the phone company offered you a dialup service while competing against you at the same time?

Of course, the small ISP market is a competitive one in many cities. For this reason, we have instituted the following privacy policy:

Privacy Policy

The information that you return to us in this survey will be kept confidential within the Voters Telecommunications Watch (VTW). Although we will collect the responses and publish the aggregate results, we will not publish your name, or the name of your business. In addition, we will be very careful to avoid publishing information that could clearly identify your business. Furthermore, we will not take the list of respondents and sell, rent, lease, or otherwise provide the list to any other party. However VTW may contact you directly in the future (to participate in next year's survey, for example).


Please take a moment to complete this survey here or online at http://www.vtwctr.org/survey/

We'll even send you a cool VTW free speech shirt for your troubles!



Shabbir J. Safdar


Section 1: General information

This section is very important. It tells us what sort of Internet provider you are. When we aggregate the results, it is helpful to make sure we don't compare ISPs with 1,200 lines to those with 20. Remember that this information will stay confidential.

Q11:How many analog dialup connections can you simultaneously support?


Q12:How many individual analog dialup customers do you have?


Q13:How many ISDN customers do you have?


Q14: Approximately how many businesses and organizations use your facilities to host their web pages?


Section 2: Congestion information

A local telephone company has recently complained to the FCC about "congestion" in local telephone switches during peak times. Internet users, they argue, are consuming a disproportionate amount of the capacity of the phone network. Not enough evidence has been presented yet to adequately determine the scope or seriousness of this issue. We're asking for answers to the following questions to give us a better sense of the problem.

Q21:What days and times during the week are your peak usage times? Please specify time zones.


Q22: Do you "time out" subscribers who stay on line for a period of time without activity?


Several ISPs have reported being approached by their local phone company to subscribe to "route around" services that allow their customers to dialup without competing for circuits in the public telephone network (PTN). One such scheme intercepts calls before going into the switch and redirects them over a frame relay network directly into an ISP's router. The following questions address this topic.

Q23: Has your local telephone company discussed with you concerns about network congestion and means of reducing it?


Q24:Are you considering offering some alternate form of residential access other than analog dial-up or ISDN in the next year?


Q25:Have you been approached by a local telephone company to purchase such a service?


If the answer is no, please jump to question 30.

Q26:Would the service cost more, less, or about the same as your current dialup system?


Q27:Would you consider the service more, less, or about as reliable as your current dialup system?


Q28:Is the same local telephone company offering you such a service also currently competing with you in the local Internet dialup market?


Section 3: General policy questions

Q30:Do you have a terms-of-service agreement with your customers?


Q31:Do you verify age of subscribers to check for minors?


Q32:Do you allow anonymous accounts?


Q33:Have you complied with law enforcement requests for information (such as subscriber addresses and real names) without a subpoena or court order?


Section 4: Unsolicited commercial email

Unsolicited commercial email (UCE) has been the subject of several court cases (see http://www.vtwctr.org/casewatch/) and the bane of both Internet users and Service Providers. The following questions deal with this issue of UCE.

Q41: Do you consider junk email to be a serious problem for ISPs?


Q42:Do you have a policy that prohibits the sending of unsolicited bulk commercial email?


Q43:Do you provide some sort of junk email filtering mechanism to your customers?


Q44:Have you ever terminated a user account because of junk emailing activity?


Section 5: Universal service

For many years there has been a program that ensured that every American who needed a telephone would have one. The program, Universal Service, is funded through telecommunications industry tariffs. Many have argued that this same principal should apply to Internet access as well for both low-cost as well as rural access. There isn't enough information gathered to understand this problem presently.

The following questions deal with the issue of widespread low-cost Internet access. Please remember that these answers will be kept confidential.

Q51:When considering installing a Point Of Presence (POP) in a nearby area, approximately how many subscribers do you have to expect in the first year to justify the installation?


Q52:In order to justify opening a new POP, are subscribers the only necessary consideration, or must there be additional business generated by the POP to justify its opening, such as dedicated dialup lines or corporate webhosting?


Q53:What is the lowest per month cost of a dialup account that provides email and Usenet news access that you offer?


Q54:Do you provide any services for free or at a reduced rate, as a public service, e.g., access to public schools, libraries, non-profit organizations?


Section 6: Future directions

The small ISP industry is extremely flexible. In this next section we request that you give us a sense for what areas your business is moving towards.

Q61:Is there a part of your business that you think is in a stagnating market, or no longer worth staying in that you're spinning off or closing down?


Q62:Is there a new market that you're working to break into?


Saturday, November 15, 2008