The Great Exchange

Brett Frankenberger brettf at
Sun May 31 03:00:52 UTC 1998

:: Vadim Antonov writes ::
> There's such thing as implied contract.  Delivery of packets to destination
> is a primary venue of business for ISPs, and they are reasonably expected
> to carry it on.  When you provide flat-rate pricing it is understood that
> some of them won't be delivered, and customers won't be charged more for
> retransmission.
> On the other hand, when you explicitly bill for all packets, and then fail
> to carry on your service and then proceed to bill for a service not provided
> you've got a problem.  I didn't see a contract language yet which would
> explicitly and clearly state that customers will be charged for arbitrarily high
> percentage of non-delivered packets.

So if it's flat-rate, it's understood that they'll drop packets on the
floor if they feel like it; if it's not flat-rate, then it's not
understood that they'll drop packets on the floor if they feel like it.

I wouldn't want to be a lawyer having to convince a judge of that.

Certainly most people here know that packets are being dropped on the
floor in either case.

The majority of the public has no idea what a dropped packet it, much
less whether their ISP is doing it.

I'm having trouble believeing that there's a lot of people out there
who understand the best-effort nature of today's internet /
IP-networks, *and* who also think that charging per byte somehow
changes that.

> It's like a food store which sells boxes of some stuff, and some of
> those are empty - but you have to pay for each one and cannot return
> the bad ones, and have no way of knowing what your odds are.  It may
> be legal, but not in US.

Actually, such a store would be quite legal[1].  But they have to
disclose what they are doing.  For example, the boxes I by at the local
supermarket all say "Net Weight X" (or something similar) on them.  So
if it doesn't have X amount of stuff in it, I've been cheated.

OTOH, I can also legally buy a lottery ticket, which might be worth
millions and might be worth nothing -- but I'm told that in advance. 
(More precisely, I'm expected to know the nature of a lottery ticket
before I buy one -- just as an IP transit customer is expected to know
the nature of IP transit before buying it.)

It's reasonable to expect that people who are in charge of networks
large enough to be buying leased lines from an ISP would know the
best-effort nature of IP.  So as long as the contract says: "You pay
for every byte you send me", I think they're covered.  There's not
billing for a service not provided, because the service being sold is
"best effort delivery", so as long as they make a "best effort" on each
packet, you pay for it.

Also, this is mostly a moot point -- most of the "burstable T1" plans
I've seen call for measuring utilization separately on receive and
transmit, and charging based on whichever is higher.  Since any ISP or
End-User small enough to need just "burstable T1" service is likely to
be recieving more bits than they are sending, they won't actually end
up paying for retransmitted packets (or for any other transmitted

[1] In some cases, it would constitute an illegal lottery, but that's
still not fraud.  And certainly ISPs are not illegal lotterys ...

          - Brett  (brettf at
                               ... Coming soon to a      | Brett Frankenberger
.sig near you ... a Humorous Quote ...                   | brettf at

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