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Glossary of Telecommunications Terms

Glossary of Telecommunications Terms


Access Charge: charges long distance providers pay to local telephone service providers for use of the local network to complete long distance calls.

Access Line: the circuit between a telephone subscriber and the local switching center.

Advanced Television Services: television services provided using digital technology. High Definition Television (HDTV): refers to digital systems that offer approximately twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of standard analog systems available today. Standard Definition Television (SDTV): refers to digital systems with approximately equal resolution of standard analog systems available today.

Affiliate: a company that (directly or indirectly) owns or controls at least 10% of another company.

Basic Service: the minimum set of capabilities deemed necessary for use of the public telecommunications network. Current basic service includes an access line (usually one-party, analog, rotary dial), access to local and long distance calling, access to emergency calling (911), and access to voice/nonvoice relay service.

Bell Operating Company (BOC): a local telephone company formerly owned by AT&T.

Cable Service: one-way transmission of video programming to subscribers.

Calling Number Identification Service (CNI): caller ID. With a display unit attached to a telephone and subscription to this service, a caller's number is identified on incoming calls.

Common Carrier: an entitry that provides a public communications conduit without regard to content.

Customer premises equipment (CPE): equipment employed on the premises of a person (other than a carrier) to originate, route, or terminate telecommunications.

Flat-rate service: set monthly fees for unlimited service.

Dialing parity: a company that is not an affiliate of a local phone company is able to provide phone services in such a manner that customers have the ability to route their calls automatically without the use of any access code.

Eligible Telecommunications Carrier: a telecommunications carrier is eligible to receive universal service support if it offers phone service to all customers throughout a service area without preference and it advertises the available supported services through the mass media.

Exchange access: the offering of access to telephone exchange services or facilities for the purpose of the origination or termination of telephone toll services.

Information service: the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunications, and includes electronic publishing, but does not include any use of any such capability for the management, control, or operation of a telecommunications system or the management of a telecommunications service.

Interconnection: equal access to networks between incumbant and competitive local exchange carriers.

Interexchange Carrier (IXC): telecommunications providers that provide service between local service areas.

Interlata service: telecommunications between a point located in a local access and transport area (LATA) and a point located outside such area.

Internet: an international network of computer networks with common protocol standards.

Local access and transport area (LATA): a contiguous geographic area established before the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by a Bell operating company such that no exchange area includes points within more than 1 metropolitan statistical area, consolidated metropolitan statistical area, or State.

Local exchange carrier: any company that is engaged in the provision of telephone exchange service or exchange access.

Network element: a facility or the equipment used in the provision of a telecommunications service. The term includes subscriber numbers, databases, signaling systems, and information sufficient for billing and collection or used in the transmission, routing, or other provision of a telecommunications service.

Number portability: allows consumers remaining at the same location to retain their existing telephone numbers when switching from one carrier to another.

Public rights-of-way: use of public resources for creation or maintenence of infrastructure.Telecommunications: the transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing (including voice, data, image, graphics, and video), without change in the form or content of the information.

Telecommunications carrier: any provider of telecommunications services. A telecommunications carrier shall be treated as a common carrier under this Act only to the extent that it is engaged in providing telecommunications services.

Telecommunications equipment: equipment, other than customer premises equipment, used by a carrier to provide telecommunications services, and includes software integral to such equipment (including upgrades).

Telecommunications service: the offering of telecommunications for a fee directly to the public, or to such classes of users as to be effectively available directly to the public, regardless of the facilities used.

V-Chip: a device which can be programed to block programing from being viewed on a television. All TV sets sold in America will include the V-Chip starting January 1, 1998. A complementary ratings system of television programing debuted in January 1997.


Archie: A utility that allows one to search for files on publicly accessible "ftp" sites. Archie stores a database of ftp sites that allow "anonymous" public access as well as the available files.

Bandwidth: The transmission capacity of a telecommunications link (e.g., 64 kbps).

Bit: A binary digit, the smallest unit of information in a computer, represented as a 0 or 1. One character is typically seven or eight bits in length.

bps: Bits per second, used to refer to transmission speeds of sending data (e.g., 2400 bps, 14,400 bps, etc.). Speed takes on particular importance when using on-line Internet services. See also "kbps."

Byte: A collection of bits used to form a character or some other information.

Client: End-user computer on a network (local or Internet).

Communications Protocol: a collection of rules that ensure compatibility of transmitting and receiving equipment. Protocols usually have three main parts: the method by which data is coded; the method by which codes are received; and the methods used to establish control, detect errors and failures, and intiate corrective action.

Data Compression: reduces the number of bits of information needed to store or transmit messages.

Digital Switch: a computer which electronically routes digitally encoded messages through a network. Digital switches operate faster, more effectively, and with greater flexibility than analog switched.

Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS): video programing transmited from a satellite directly to customers' receiving equipment.

Digital Transmission: transmission of data, audio, or video messages in discrete codes generated by computers.

Domain: The name of a computer or network on the Internet, specifically the characters to the right of the "@" sign, indicating the organization and the type of organization (.mil: military; .org: nonprofit; .edu: educational institution; .com: commercial, etc.) that operates that domain or the physical location of the computer (i.e. .ca: Canada, .uk: United Kingdom)

E-mail: Electronic Mail. Messages are composed on computers and then sent over a network to other network users in electronic form.

Fiber-Optic Cable: bundles of thin glass filaments through which light can travel. Fiber offers greater transmission capacity with less interference than metal cables.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP): the first and most fundamental way to transfer files to and from remote computer sites. "Anonymous ftp" refers to being able to access public file archives without a password (Login: anonymous; Password: your e-mail address).

Gopher: An Internet tool developed at the University of Minnesota that offers a simple method of perusing and retrieving information on the Internet. Gopher provides an easy, menu-based means of navigating and searching for useful information, without having to know exactly where the desired resources are stored. A user must have an account from an Internet service provider with direct access to the Internet. Some Gopher sites allow "telnet" logins for those without Gopher client software.

Host: On the Internet, a host, or host computer, can serve as both way station and entrypoint for network users. Hosts serve information to remote users, for example via World Wide Web or Gopher. They also provide access to the Internet for local users -- those capable of logging in through a particular account.

Hypertext: The World Wide Web is built around this concept. Documents are formatted with special tools that permit authors to link information to other documents of relevance elsewhere on the Internet. The Web is composed of "pages," documents written in hypertext, or HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Using this information, graphical browsers like Mosaic or Netscape display images and text. By clicking on highlighted text, one can move to related information and images located anywhere around the world, reading and accessing countless pages of on-line information in various media (audio, video, pictures, etc.). A nongraphical browser called Lynx also enables access to Hypertext documents, with keystrokes instead of a mouse.

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN): a telecommunications system which converts voice, data, and video into digital signals for high speed transmission over existing telephone networks.

kbps: Kilobits per second, e.g., 14.4 kbps.

Leased line: A dedicated telephone line for whatever purpose designated by the lessee. Leased lines are capable of higher transmission speeds for data communications than regular telephone lines and are often required for large computers with multiple users connecting simultaneously to the Internet.

Listserv: E-mail-based discussion forums on a particular topic to which e-mail users subscribe. The listserv distributes all e-mail received to the list address to each subscriber on the list, making it a powerful means of distributing information widely.

Lynx: A text-based WWW browser. Lynx is a useful tool that allows users without full Internet connections to peruse and download resources on the World Wide Web, albeit without all the graphics and sound. Users must have an on-line account; at the main prompt, type lynx, and use the keystroke instructions at the bottom of the screen.

Modem: a device which converts digital signals generated by a computer into analog signals for transmission over telephone lines. Modems also convert analog signals from telephone lines into digital signals for computer use. (The term is short for modulator - demodulator).

Newsgroup: A system for conducting discussions on the Internet. Newsgroups are like world-wide bulletin boards: mail is stored in a central location and those interested in the topic of the discussion group may read and post messages without actually receiving a copy of each posting. Unlike listservs (which automatically send messages to subscribers' mailboxes), participation in USENET newsgroups is passive, and requires "reader" software to be able to read and post.

Node: Any computer connected to a network. Typically also refers to a host computer on the Internet.

Off-line: The absence of connection to another computer. In an "off-line" mail system, the user reads and writes e-mail messages in an editor without a modem connection to a remote computer. Another piece of software then automatically establishes a connection to a remote host computer, sends and receives accumulated e-mail, then hangs up. This is less interactive than on-line systems, but tends to be cheaper for the user and is sometimes a necessity in areas with particularly bad telephone lines.

On-line: A "live" connection to another computer. In an on-line e-mail system, a user works directly with a remote host computer, reading and sending e-mail while connected to that computer. Interactive Internet functions like WWW and Gopher require an on-line interface.

Point of Presence (POP): the physical location where calls are routed to for transmission by a long-distance (interexchange) carrier.

Server: The main computer on a network, including local area networks (LANs) and hosts on the Internet. So called because it "serves" software or information to the "client" computers on the network.

Service provider: A company or other organization that provides e-mail or Internet connectivity, typically for a fee.

SL/IP and PPP: Serial Line Internet Protocol or Point-to-Point Protocol. These protocols are used to establish real "TCP/IP" Internet connections over dial-up lines, as opposed to leased lines.

TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, TCP and IP are two open protocol standards used among computers connected to the Internet, allowing different computer systems and platforms to share data seamlessly. TCP/IP forms the foundation for Interne t communications, upon which such services as Gopher and World-Wide Web can be provided.

Telnet: A method of connecting from one host computer system to another via the Internet. Telnet allows users to log into accounts on remote systems, and retrieve text-based information from a remote host.

UNIX: The most popular operating system for host computers on the Internet. One does not need to be a UNIX specialist to tap the resources of the Internet, but it helps to know a few fundamental commands. Many of the commands are similar to those in DOS.

Veronica: A utility that searches for files located on Gopher servers. Veronica searches all known Gopher servers and keeps a database catalog. To search this catalog, simply "point" a gopher client to the University of Minnesota and look under "All the Gopher Servers in the World."

WAIS: Wide Area Information Server. A method for putting database information on-line for access across the Internet.

WWW: World-Wide Web. The newest and increasingly the most popular service on the Internet, WWW is a "hypertext" information system capable of presenting multimedia information (audio, video, graphics, etc.) to those with a "direct connection" to the Internet. It requires a SL/IP, PPP, or some other dedicated Internet connection and browser software (like Mosaic or Netscape). Users without such a dedicated connection, but who still have an on-line account, can use a nongraphical,text-based browser called Lynx.

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Last updated: 4 March 97 kjt