The FCC doesn't want to tax your modem

Periodically somebody posts a terrifying message about the FCC imposing a tax on modem usage. The post usually ends with a plea to forward the message as widely as possible. Don't.

                          Common Carrier Bureau
                           Enforcement Division
            Informal Complaints and Public Inquiries Branch
                                Suite 6202
                         Washington, D.C. 20554
                          Phone: (202) 632-7553

                                                       In Reply Refer To:
January 1990                                                       63203


The FCC has received letters from a number of computer modem users
expressing concern about an alleged "proposal" before the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) that would result in a surcharge for
the use of computer modems on the telephone network.

There is no proposal pending before the FCC that would result in the
application of a surcharge for the use of computer modems on the
telephone network.

The FCC has been informed that various computer bulletin board systems
are encouraging computer modem users to write to the FCC and to their
congressional representatives to oppose this alleged proposal.  The FCC's
Common Carrier Bureau (Bureau) staff has contacted several bulletin board
systems and requested those systems to advise their users that there is no
proposal before the FCC at this time regarding a computer modem surcharge.
Bureau staff is continuing to investigate possible sources of the surcharge
rumors and to distribute correct information to computer modem users.

                                 - FCC -

Anything the FCC actually does goes through a months-long proposal and comments procedure. Any proposed or pending action has a "docket number" associated with the "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" document. Any claim that the FCC is doing something which does not provide a docket number should be taken with a grain of salt.

While the FCC sometimes does aggravating or silly things, this particular claim, that the FCC is trying to extract extra fees from modem users, is false. If you call the FCC Common Carrier office at 202-632-7553 they will (wearily) offer to send you a copy of the above press release.

1997 update: this issue has once again reared its ugly head, with lots of people forwarding around misleading mail. The status as of February 12, 1997 is that the FCC has tentatively concluded that they should not subject ISPs to long-distance access charges (see NPRM, 3RD R&O & NOI on Interstate Access Charge Reform CC Dkt 96-262, 94-1, 91-213, 96-263; paragraphs 284-288, or search for "ESP"). Computer networks have the potential to support either democratic discourse or mob hysteria. If the sole extent of your "involvement" in a "burning" issue is to forward, without verification, detail-free alarmist messages, which one are you furthering?

[Hosted at since June 23, 1997]

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