save the australian internet

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Posted by Karen Melzack on March 28, 1997 at 10:54:47:

On March 25, 1997, the Australian Parliament passed legislation that
threatens to shut down the Internet in Australia. The Telecommunications
Bill opens the way for Telstra to charge for timed data calls. As the
source of connectivity for hundreds of ISPs in Australia, this will allow
Telstra to strangle Australia's ISP industry by raising their charges. In
turn, these charges will be passed on to the consumer. Using the Internet
through today's ISPs will become so expensive that very few people will
be able to afford it. Companies will lose their clients and go out of
business. Gradually, Telstra will take over Australia's ISP community,
and the age of affordable Internet access will end.

As Ramin Marzbani, Principal of www.consult, Australia's leading
Internet analysts, remarked, "Telstra are very smart and well-prepared.
The ISPs don't have a chance".

How can this happen?

The Telecommunications Bill allows for the provision of timed local data
calls for businesses. In the weeks leading up to the passage of the bill,
Communications Minister Senator Richard Alston attempted to quell
debate on this issue by stating that residential customers would continue
to have access to untimed data calls. This is an act of deception. While
the originator of a data call could be immune from direct time charges,
the recipient, namely the ISP, will not. The ISP will be billed for the time
a user connects, and will then add these charges to their bill. Consumers
already pay enough for Internet access alone. Adding time charges will
increase the overall cost of accessing the Internet to unacceptable levels.

What will happen to the Internet?

The introduction of timed data calls is a calculated move that is designed
to increase the profits of Telstra at the expense of the rest of the nation.
This will improve Telstra's attractiveness to its investors, who are likely to
be foreign-owned telecommunications companies.

At a time when Australia is suffering from high unemployment and
stagnation in our industries, the federal government has struck a blow at
one of the fastest growing industries in Australia.

Australia is one of the heaviest users of the Internet in the world. There
are more than 470 Internet Service Providers. The industry directly
employs 14,000 people and indirectly employs 60,000. Furthermore, it
helps businesses with their commercial communications.

Thousands of people use the Internet as a means of overcoming
disabilities, medical problems or alienation due to beliefs or lifestyles.
Internet users in rural communities and isolated properties will also suffer.

The Internet also saves on the use of paper, making it an environmentally
friendly method of communications. This, and other benefits, will all be
lost as the Internet becomes unaffordable.

As Anne Davies wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald (27th March

"The 470 Internet Service Providers have been outraged by
the Government's decision to allow timed data calls for
business, claiming that Telstra will use the new freedom to
put them out of business. Telstra competes with Internet
Service Providers directly through its Big Pond product.
However, it is unlikely that Senator Alston's guarantee will
placate the ISP industry."

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