17 Apr 1988 12:04-EDT
Your flames seem a bit excessive (but I suppose that's a tautology...).
In networks like the Internet there are components such as the gateways,
wide area network switches, and shared trunks whose costs could reasonably
be allocated on the basis of usage. When multiple administrations (such
as DOE, DOD, NSF, HHS, etc.) share facilities, it is important to be
able to demonstrate that costs are related to services rendered (used) in
some fashion. The reason is that each agency quite properly could be
asked by Congress, for instance, to show that it obtained its fair share
of the facility (based on what it paid for). One might, as you suggest,
some up with a formula for sharing some of the fixed cost of the network
(a sort of base price you pay to be connected to the system at all).
The issue of accounting becomes more significant as the services
rendered become less research/experimental and more like commodities.
Telephone services such as the Federal Telephone System run by the GSA
are cost-allocated in accordance with usage and one doesn't find it odd
to pay for telephone calls on the basis of time and distance.
The parameters for packet nets may be different than for telephone
voice service (maybe no distance charges). The important thing for
the parties involved is to be able to demonstrate that there is a
reasonable sharing of costs. I'm no longer with the government, so I
certainly can't speak for the agencies involved, but I'm extrapolating
from experiences I had at DARPA from 1976-82 when questions about
access to ARPANET and sharing of costs were considered.
One attractive thing about basing charges on usage is that as total
usage goes up, it may be possible to make capital investments to increase
capacity in a way that doesn't specifically require that all parties make
an agreement to acquire more equipment - the service provider can
buy it on the basis of increased usage and spread the cost in a reasonably
equitable fashion. I'm not saying you couldn't do it on the basis of
ports or nodes - the ARPANET did it that way for years - but thenit
seemed to me a little harder to distribute the cost of adding a larger
scale packet switch somewhere.
In any case, the present focus on accounting is, in my view, important
and valid and we should work to help the government folks find reasonable
ways to implement it.
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