In the continuing battle to blame one another for the killing of network performance, both the regional Bell operating companies – RBOCs – and the various Internet service providers and high-tech coalitions have been pleading their cases before the US Federal Communications Commission. The FCC-hosted Bandwidth Forum, ostensibly a forum for all players in the Internet traffic game to educate each other as well as the FCC, was preceded by a flurry of press releases and a 53-page study released by the IAC Internet Access Coalition – a group representing Internet service providers and high-technology companies – which found that, contrary to claims by RBOCS like Pacific Bell Corp, data communications traffic poses no significant threat to [public switched] network integrity at the present time. The RBOCs countered with claims that the Internet was using up one quarter of all flat-rate telephone line usage. Last month, the FCC began hearings on pricing Internet and data traffic over telephone networks. At that time, the RBOCs were complaining that rising Internet usage has strained their systems and is costing them money in the form of network upgrades. According to Pacific Bell, it will spend close to $100m this year to accommodate Internet use. The RBOCs would like to see data traffic charged at a higher rate, with Internet service providers paying local access fees, not unlike long distance carriers today. The IAC report accuses the RBOCs of over-estimating the costs of data traffic and exaggerating the congestion on their networks. Further, the report claims the increase in data communications traffic has produced additional revenues for the local exchange carriers that far exceed their costs in accommodating that traffic. The report does imply that data communications will eventually pose a threat to the existing phone network. However, it then goes on to stress that improved switching technology, rather than increased usage rates should alleviate future congestion throughout the RBOCs. Maura Colleton, vice president of information services at the Industry Technology Coalition of America, which is a member of the IAC, says that co-location, or the right to resell service on the public switched network, will also be an issue for the FCC. The RBOCs, she says, have prevented other companies from entering the local access market by appealing against the FCC’s recent interconnection order, effectively preventing anyone but themselves from bearing the burden of increased Internet usage. The hearings are expected to continue into the summer.