No e-mail long distance charges

Internet users can rest easy for now, knowing that rumors that phone companies will assess long-distance charges for e-mail and Web access are false.
“That’s not true,” said Emily Hoffnar, special assistant with the Federal Communications Commission. “We are not going to allow access fees or long-distance charges for Internet calls.”
Long-distance charges do not even apply, according to Chris Gonzalez, owner of
Gilroy-based Atlas OnLine Services, which recently expanded its service to include the nation. When Internet users dial up the Web, they are actually making a local call.
“Literally, what you’re doing is you are using your computer as a phone, and you’re dialing your local provider,” he said.
The issue is not before Congress for a vote, as many rumors suggest, according to Michelle Helier, a spokesperson for Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
Most Internet service
providers levy a flat monthly rate for unlimited access to the Internet, not per-minute charges. That is the case with HotCity Networking, a Gilroy-based ISP that serves most of California and other states.
“We just do $20 a month for unlimited usage,” said owner Randy Norton. “We pay the phone company for our lines. Of course, we’re in competition with them.”
Phone companies sell their lines to ISPs and offer their own Internet service as well.
According to the FCC, the rumor stems from a question regarding “reciprocal compensation.”
Reciprocal compensation means that one local telephone company must compensate another telephone company for completing a call that the first company’s customer started. The compensation is between telephone companies, and the question is whether ISPs are subject to reciprocal compensation.
The FCC is currently considering the matter, but some worry that if the 1SPs do have to pay reciprocal compensation, the charge will get passed :on to customers.
• That is also not true, according to FCC officials. .The rates customers pay for local telephone service is regulated by the states, and they require
•phone companies to charge a flat rate for unlimited local usage.
: The FCC also has a special exemption for ISPs,
‘and has dictated that they be treated as local :phone customers.
The ISP acts as the hub for Internet users and is responsible for transferring any data to or from the user, according to Gonzalez.
However, this is not the first time that the question of levying extra charges on 1SPs has come up. At one point, ISPs were in danger of being charged for transferring data, which would have amounted to a toll or daily rate the ISP would have to pay, on top of the price of the phone line, Gonzalez said.
Many phone companies are seeing increased revenue from the installation of second and third lines in private residences and in businesses, to accommodate both Internet and phone usage.
However, technology is currently available that allows customers to use one line for multiple, simultaneous uses, according to Gonzalez.
Through available hardware and software, customers can access the Internet, use the phone or fax documents all at the same time, he said.
Despite the efforts of the FCC to inform customers that they will not have to pay long-distance charges for dialing up the Internet or sending e-mail, the rumors have persisted, according to Hoffnar.
“There’s all kinds of rumors that have been flying around for months, and I don’t know why they have such staying power,” she said.

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