Re: Whither chargeback policies?

Sean McLinden (
21 Apr 88 18:29:06 GMT

The biggest single argument against chargeback is that is does NOT take
into account the value of the network as a substrate for some greater
activity. In terms of the volume of business on the DARPA side of the
Internet, I suspect that the biggest users, who are, most probably,
the biggest contributors to the evolution of the network, are hardly
the deepest pockets, and this includes the many universities and research
groups that provide software such as the recent TCP/IP updates to Unix,
without charge to the users. There is no fair way to measure this
contribution (unless we put it to a quorum), or to predict from where will
the next significant contribution come.

If the network were an end in and of itself, a chargeback policy based
on usage would be quiet reasonable. Under a Libertarian system of government
it would also make sense, but many other programs aimed at a greater good
are not billed on the basis of usage but on the basis that the good to
society represents a greater "fairness" than billing on a usage basis.

A previous author, in criticizing my highway analogy, actually argued
in favor of my point by noting that toll road was less utilized than
the alternate routes which were subsidized by taxation rather than
usage tax (except indirectly, by gasoline taxes). The arguement here
is that there is a societal good which justifies the expenditure of
public funds without regard to direct usage. In the sense that this
benefits all of us, independent of our ability to pay, one might
argue that it is more benevolent than a system which is more "fair".

The problem with many policy-makers is that they love to deal with
numbers and go to great pains to quantitize any problem so that they
can deal with it using well established (if unimaginative), numeric
systems. There is a qualitative issue here, which deals with our
economic and technologic competitive edge as a function of information
sharing, which cannot easily be reduced to a scalar. We have an obligation
to study that thoroughly before we institute the policies of some
pencil pusher who needs to show some federal budgeteer a black line that
puts them in the clear and forces the rest of us to deal within the
limits of short sighted policy-makers.

I agree that a study should be done, but participants should not be
limited solely to knife wiedling accountants and the clever technocrats
who have demonstrated that we have the technology to institute such
as system as packet accounting, but also to those people who are able
to see how our future as developers and users of this technology
and as a nation, would be best served.

Sean McLinden
Decision Systems Laboratory
University of Pittsburgh

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