Yup; the Internet is screwed up.

Kenneth M. Chipps Ph.D. chipps at chipps.com
Sun Jun 12 13:20:22 CDT 2011

Sure its old and slow, but it is or at least was readily available to use
poor country folk that cannot get DSL and so forth. The failback positions
when all else is unavailable is analog, ISDN, or T1 from a landline,
satellite or a WISP through the air with cellular data becoming more of an

When I called AT&T to order the ISDN line years ago, their answer was - Huh,
What, Do we sell that.

-----Original Message-----
From: Barry Shein [mailto:bzs at world.std.com] 
Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2011 1:03 PM
To: Jon Lewis
Cc: NANOG list
Subject: Re: Yup; the Internet is screwed up.

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

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 ISDN.

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 notice.

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

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

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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