Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 2 NO. 3 / WINTER 1987


The FCC, Rate Increases and Decreases
and Swapping Graphics

by Gregg Pearlman
Antic Assistant Editor

One of the most powerful uses for your ST is communication with other computers via modem. Among the computers willing to listen to your computer are the mainframes at CompuServe, GEnie, Delphi and The Source, as well as the thousands of bulletin boards run on microcomputers all over the country

In fact, Telenet's PC Pursuit lets you make an unlimited number of long-distance calls- inexpensively (during evenings and weekends)- to bulletin boards, specialized databases and major information services.

Of course, cost is always a consideration, but it used to be easy to find a conversation partner for your computer at a reasonable price. This may change soon.

Perhaps you've heard about the proposal put forth by the Federal Communications Commission saying that enhanced service providers, such as CompuServe and Telenet, should no longer he exempt from paying interstate access charges as of January 1. 1988. If this goes through, don't be surprised if Telenet, for example, jacks up the rates for PC Pursuit-or discontinues it altogether.

Depending on the service, users might find themselves paying an extra $4.50 to $5 per hour, which could price online services out of reach --especially for subscribers who access CompuServe through Telenet or TYMNET. David Kishler, a CompuServe spokesperson, estimates a $2 per hour increase. (Private or intrastate communications would not be subject to the increase, however.) Either way, information industry officials believe that the ruling could wipe out companies offering lower-priced services geared toward to the home computer and educational market.

might be paying
an extra $4.50 to $5
per hour.

Under the ruling, large, private data networks (such as a huge reservation database for an airline) wouldn't have to pay the charges, but small companies operating databases would. Yet these "private" networks are often linked to local telephone loops through the company's switchboard. Thus, though the big companies use the local telephone companies the same way, they're exempt from the new fees.

Why leave the big guys alone? Well, the difference between them and the average user is that the big guys could light a much hotter political fire under the FCC than the average user could.

The FCC seems to think that the computer networks and information providers have been riding for free for too long. However, industry members feel that the FCC has singled them out for the increase. It's more than a fair guess that the online services will have to pass the extra charges on to their customers.

Interestingly enough, the FCC proposal comes right on the heels of CompuServe's reduction of daytime connect rates, whereby subscribers now pay $6 per hour at 110-450 baud (a more than 50% reduction) and $12.50 per hour at 1200-2400 baud. CompuServe isn't likely to want to go back on this-but stay tuned for further developments.

CompuServe's new file format, Graphics Interchange Format (GIF, pronounced "Jif"), lets you exchange high-resolution graphics images such as technical design diagrams, business charts and graphs, medical illustrations, computer art images and digitized photographs between your ST and a Macintosh, Amiga and IBM PC-compatible with CGA, EGA or VGA graphics capability.

GIF also compresses files to between half and one-eighth the original memory size. Images can contain up to 256 simultaneous colors from a palette of 16 million, each of which can be identified by specifying its red, green and blue components.

GIF images can also be transmitted through EasyPlex and InfoPlex, CompuServe's two email systems.

The GIF programs and sample files are available through the hardware forums on CIS that correspond to the computer models using the GIF format, and in other forums, including P1CS, the Picture Support Forum. The GIF protocol is in the public domain, but CompuServe retains copyright on the encoders and decoders provided by the company.

CompuServe, Inc. (Available through Tymnet, Telenet, Datapac and CompuServe networks. 300 Baud $6 per hour; 1200, 2400 Baud $12.50 per hour (No surcharge for prime time access.) Does not include communications surcharges. To subscribe, get a CompuServe "IntroPak" from your computer dealer, or call CompuServe.

CompuServe, inc., 5000 Arlington Centre Blvd., P.O. Box 20212, Columbus, OH 43220. (614) 457-0802; (800) 848-8190

GEnie. $5 per hour off-peak; $35 per hour prime-time (8 a.m.-6 p.m., weekdays.) $10 surcharge for 2400 baud. Does not include communications surcharges. To subscribe, log-in to GEnie at 1-800-638-8369. When connected, type HHH [Return]. At the U# prompt, type XJM11999, GEnie [Return]. Be sure to have your Visa or Mastercard number handy.

GEnie, General Electric Network for information Exchange, General Electric information Services Co., 401 N. Washington Street, Rockville, MD 20850. (800) 638-9636