Yup; the Internet is screwed up.

Barry Shein bzs at world.std.com
Sun Jun 12 18:02:59 UTC 2011

On June 11, 2011 at 20:53 jlewis at lewis.org (Jon Lewis) wrote:
 > Have you heard the joke...ISDN = I Still Don't kNow?  For whatever reason, 
 > BRI service is something the US telcos apparently never really wanted to 
 > sell...perhaps because it might have cut into their T1 business. 

FWIW, ISDN is pretty old, standardized in 1988 but worked on for years
before that.

The BIG VISION of the telcos was that ISDN would carry the whole
stack, particularly services like (business) e-mail. If you're really
old you remember MCI Mail which was like 20c/message. They never
seriously considered a public internet like we got when architecting

Consequently the whole thing was just too expensive to deliver as a
last-mile connectivity-only product. They needed revenue from the rest
of the stack to make it profitable.

That said, ISDN was very cool in that it was switched which meant you
"dialed" something, a lot like a POTS number. It was usually an actual
POTS telephone number with some more digits but whatever.

But it could establish a connection in about 50msec which meant you
could be dropped, say for idle, hit a key and it'd redial and you'd
never notice you were dropped. Try that with POTS dial-up! You could
pretty much be dropped and redialed between keystrokes and never much

More importantly it meant you could have more than one ISDN "ISP",
like dial-up (or voice for that matter) just "dial" a different

There was discussion, people like Sen Ed Markey of MA was interested
(ca 1992?), in trying to get the phone companies to embrace first ISDN
(they were reluctant, I had it at home but you really had to know how
to order it etc) and then some sort of next generation ISDN which
would be faster, maybe 10x, and so on.

The attraction of DSL was, among other things, that it was nailed down
to one and only one service provider, you couldn't just "dial" some
other provider like with ISDN.

This was a very important fork in the history of last-mile services,
when we went from mostly switched (dial-up, maybe ISDN) to nailed-up
single vendor solutions.

I'd love to see some sort of "switched" last-mile services again,
introduce some competition into the system, tho most likely it'd be
(more) virtual over some low-level broadband service.

        -Barry Shein

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