It's on television, in magazines, newspapers, and in our schools. Everywhere you
go you hear about the Internet. Dubbed "The Information Superhighway," one might
think that this network of millions of computers around the globe is as fast and as
captivating as television, but with more and more users logging on everyday and
staying on longer and longer, this "Information Superhighway" could be perhaps
more correctly referred to as a clogged Los-Angeles expressway at lunch hour.

Users are often frustrated at busy signals and slow speeds. The corporate giant,
America Online, Inc, has recently been the target of several lawsuits over this
because when it changed it's pricing plan, so many new users came on, and so
many people started staying on longer, that it's system couldn't handle the strain
and would run very slow and give busy signals to almost everyone that tried to log
on. As a result people started staying online because they were afraid that if they
logged off, they would never get back on. This forced America Online to upgrade
enormous amounts of equipment, lease new telephone lines, and issue
commercials apologizing for the whole predicament. They even started giving
refunds to users who were never able to get on during the troubled ordeal.

Some people are predicting, because of the length of Internet calls and the
amount of bandwidth the calls take, that one day in the not so distant future, the
entire telephone network, or at least a great portion of it, will cease to function, and
all telephone calls will fail to connect. This idea is referred to by some as the
"Gridlock Theory." Others advise that steps can be taken to avoid such a disaster,
such as upgrading phone lines and limiting Internet usage. Following the gridlock
idea is Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe, who believes that the slowdowns will only get
worse. "We recently had an outage... that denied 400,00 people access to the
Internet, in its entirety, for thirteen hours. I expect even worse cases
to develop this year." (Hunter, the Internet.)

It is estimated that twenty-five to thirty million users currently are on the Internet.
According to a recent study by Pacific Bell, and average Internet call lasts five times
as longer as the average regular telephone call. 10 percent of the Internet calls last
6 hours or longer. This can cause switches to overload and, in turn, cause telephone
calls to fail. (Firdman, page 14.)

Internet services take up 2.5 percent of the telephone lines in America, and they
are using twenty to to thirty-six percent of the total telephone network capacity. "The
local network was designed for short calls which you make and then hang up, but
Internet calls often occupy a line for hours," said David Goodtree, an industry
analyst. (Reuter's, the Internet.)

With so many people on the Internet and the number growing by 200 percent
annually, it certainly provides new challenges for the telephone companies, but the
real problem is the amount of bandwidth, which is how much information a
telephone line can carry, that Internet calls take up versus regular voice telephone
calls. (Fenton, page 41.)

The Internet, up to a few years ago, was used only to read text. Then in the early
90's, a way was made to see pictures and sound on the Internet. This breakthrough
is what started the Internet craze that is still going on today.

Today's Net, however, is much more than pictures, text, and sound. The Internet is
now filled with voice conversation, video conferencing, and video games. With voice
conversation, users can talk back and forth over the Internet, even across seas, for
the price of the local phone call they make to the Internet. Telephone companies are
arguing with the Federal Communications Commission that these services are a
threat to theirlivelyhood and that it should be stopped, but the Commission has
made no move to stop it yet. Video Conferencing allows the same thing, except
that, if you have a camera hooked up to your computer, you can see the other
person while you talk.

To make matters worse, you no longe have to own a computer to access the
Internet. Now, devices such as Web TV allow your television to browse