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Faxing from the Internet

--by Kevin Savetz

The fax machine, like electronic mail, has helped revolutionize how we work. Businesses large and small send and receive faxes (short for facsimiles) any time a copy of a document is needed quickly on the other side of town, or the other side of the planet. Faxing has some advantages over electronic mail—you can easily send images and, more notably, your recipient doesn't need to be wired to the Internet to receive a fax. A phone line and an inexpensive machine or fax modem is all it takes.

Fax machines are devices that can send a copy of a printed page over a telephone line to another fax machine. Standard faxes work by "scanning" the page to transmit for light and dark areas. The machine converts the tonal values to sounds and sends them over a phone line to a recipient machine that converts the sounds back into light and dark tones and prints them on paper.

Although fax machines have been in popular use since the 1970s, the technology for turning the printed page into sound was invented hundreds of years ago. Not until the invention of the telephone and the proliferation of computers and microchips, did fax machines become a practical method of information exchange.

Here's the best part: because you're on the Internet, you don't even need a fax machine to send faxes. That's right—you can send a fax without using a fax machine or one of those fancy New-Age fax modems. There are several services for sending a fax via electronic mail. So, if you need to send a note to a friend or an associate who's not online, you can do so without logging out of your Net account.

Note: Although you may think fax machines are just a staple for big business, small offices and home-based businesses have also discovered their usefulness. If the current trend continues, by 1995, 30 percent of all U.S. homes will have a fax machine.

Some of these services are free, run as experiments or by hobbyists. Others are commercial services that charge a fee for every fax you send. As you might expect, the quality and coverage of these services can vary considerably. The free services all have limited coverage areas: most span only a city or a few area codes. The commercial services often cover wider areas, but are (of necessity) more expensive.

So, how do you send a fax via e-mail? Read on. The following information discusses eight services that will let you do just that. And, since this is e-mail, you can send your fax to multiple destinations, or even a combination of fax machines and regular e-mail recipients. Be sure to notice that the procedure is not standardized because each service operates a little differently from the rest.

All of these services let you send plain old ASCII text. Some of them can even handle PostScript documents, should you want to send a fax with fancy formatting or graphics. But unlike a "real" fax machine, all of these services can only send information that is stored in your computer: that hand-written letter from Aunt Zelda and your kid's finger-paint artwork just can't be sent in this manner (unless, of course, you scan it in to your computer and convert the graphic to a PostScript document—I don't even want to think about that.). If you just want to send unformatted documents created with your word processor, you've got it easy.

Free Faxing Services

You may find that the following e-mail-to-fax services are a little funky, sometimes unreliable, or downright unusable. But the upside is, they're free! (To be honest, you'll probably find that they all work pretty well, but I do hear the occasional complaint about unreliable services. I just thought I'd warn you.)

TPC.INT Remote Printing

The most (in)famous fax-from-the-Internet service is the brainchild of Carl Malamud (the creator of Internet Talk Radio) and Marshall Rose. They're doing research on how to integrate special-purpose devices, like facsimile printers, into the fabric of the Internet.

The official name for this project is "an experiment in remote printing", or TPC.INT. The experiment is a good hack, enabling Internet users to easily send faxes via electronic mail. It works simply enough—send electronic mail to a special address, and soon after (if your recipient's fax machine is in a covered area) out comes a freshly-minted fax. After the deed is done, you will receive electronic mail telling you if your fax was successfully sent or not.

Note: What does TPC stand for? Go rent the film The President's Analyst, Paramount Pictures, 1967.

A variety of companies, institutions and citizens linked to the Internet have joined the experiment by linking a computer and fax modem to the Net. When an organization joins the remote-fax service, it specifies which areas it is willing to send faxes to. In most cases, an organization will allow faxes to be sent to any machine that is a local call from its fax server.

As a result, with just a smattering of organizations participating, you can't send a fax just anywhere. When you send an e-mail fax message, you (naturally) must include the phone number of the recipient's fax machine. The TPC.INT server looks at the phone number and decides if any participating fax machines cover the area to which you want to send a fax. If so, your message is routed to the appropriate machine for "faxation." Otherwise, you will receive electronic mail with the disappointing news that your fax couldn't be delivered.

Although the service is free, the service's creators are investigating ways to help the organizations recover the cost of sending faxes. So far, this has been primarily through little advertisements—sponsorship messages touting the good name of the organization operating the fax node—on the title page of the resulting fax.

To send a fax by e-mail, send this message:


where info contains information for the cover page. In info, / is turned into a line break and _ is turned into a space. For example, the address:

To: remote-printer.Arlo_Cats/

Would send a fax to +1-202-555-1212 with the cover page:

     Please deliver this facsimile to:

     Arlo Cats

     Room 123

Note: There's another way to address faxes which works more reliably sometimes. In this format, the phone number is backwards and the numbers are separated by periods. It looks ugly, but it works:

To: remote-printer.Arlo_Cats/

For a FAQ about the TPC.INT service, send electronic mail (any subject line and message body will do) to For a list of the areas where faxing is currently available with the service, e-mail

There is also a mailing list for discussion of the service. To subscribe, send e-mail to Administrative questions about the project should be directed to the following:

Note: There is also a World Wide Web page that serves as a central location for information about the TPC.INT fax service. If your Web browser can display forms, you can even fill out a form and send a fax interactively. Use your favorite Web browser to connect to

If you want to know the gory technical and implementation details of the TPC.INT experiment, there are three RFCs you might want to read:

RFC 1530 covers the general principles and policies of the experiment.

RFC 1529 covers administrative policies

RFC 1528 covers technical procedures for implementation

Here's an abbreviated list (as of this writing) of the places you can fax using the TPC.INT service. Many times, the entire country or area code is not covered, so check the current coverage list for a complete breakdown. You can get a complete and current list by sending e-mail (any subject line, any message body) to the following:

Outside the United States and Canada

Australia (+61)
Denmark (+45)
Germany (+49)
Japan (+81)
Korea (+82)
New Zealand (+64)
Portugal (+351): Lisbon (+351-1)
Sweden (+46)
United Kingdom (+44):

Canada and the United States (+1)

+1-202: Washington, D.C. (except Congress)
+1-212: New York
+1-301: Maryland
+1-310: California
+1-313: Michigan
+1-317: Indiana
+1-408: Sunnyvale, California
+1-410: Maryland
+1-412: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
+1-415: San Francisco, California
+1-416: Toronto
+1-508: Massachusetts
+1-510: Central California
+1-516: New York
+1-608: Wisconsin
+1-613: Massachusetts
+1-617: Massachusetts
+1-703; Virginia
+1-714: Irvine, California
+1-718: New York
+1-800: Toll-free calls
+1-813: Tampa
+1-818: California
+1-819: Quebec, Canada
+1-905: Markham, Canada
+1-909: California
+1-917: New York, New York
+1-919: North Carolina

The University of Minnesota Fax Service

The University of Minnesota operates a fax gateway which allows students and staff to send faxes anywhere. Even if you don't go to UMinn, you may use the service to send faxes to folks at the University and exchanges local to the campus.

The structure for e-mailing a fax is:

To: /pn=John.Doe/dd.fax=234-5678/

Put your recipient's name, with a period between the first and last names, after pn= and put the seven digit fax number after the characters dd.fax=. This name will be printed in the To: field on the fax cover page. The area code for the University of Minnesota is +1-612, so you don't need to supply an area code.

For more information, send e-mail to

rabbit.rgm Sacramento Fax Service

This service is a feature of a Sacramento, California-based bulletin board system. You can use it to send faxes to areas that are a local call from Sacramento (that's area code +1-916) including the California State Legislature. This service is run as a hobby and is connected to the Internet via UUCP, so it can take from 12 to 24 hours for your fax to be delivered or for the help files to reach you. It does not support multiple addressing—only one fax number per message. It also does not send a cover page, so be sure to start your message with a note directing it to someone's attention. It will truncate faxes longer than two pages (that's 132 lines). To use this fax service, send e-mail:


Subject: local (7 digit) phone number, without area code

Body: <text of fax>

For complete usage information, send e-mail


Subject: 052

For a list of some legislators' fax numbers in the Sacramento area, send e-mail:


Subject: 050

Swedish University Network

The Swedish University Computer Network (called sunet) operates a national fax service that can be used by anyone at no cost. Users in Sweden can use it to send faxes all over the world, but users outside Sweden can use it for telephone numbers anywhere within Sweden.

To send a fax to Arlo Cats (wow, this cat gets around, doesn't he?) at +46-87654321 (that's international notation for Sweden, phone number 08/765 43 21) send e-mail:


Note that you will always have to preface the phone number with the letter F, for fax. For more information, e-mail

Commercial Services

The following services charge for use, but you may find they're easier to use because they cover much larger areas than any of the free services. You can pick one service and use it as a sort of "one-stop-shop" for all your e-mail-to-fax needs, without worrying whether your fax's destination is in a covered city or area code.


Another fax-by-e-mail service is FAXiNET, which lets you send ASCII text or PostScript documents to fax machines worldwide. FAXiNET can currently send faxes to more than 50 countries and plans to add more. The company can also receive faxes for you, which will be delivered to you via electronic mail.

Accounts for individuals cost 75 cents per page, plus a one-time $20 activation fee. Additional services, including adding your custom logo and signature to your faxes, are available at extra cost. Corporate accounts are also available. More information is available from AnyWare Associates, FAXiNET, 32 Woodland Road, Boston, MA 02130. (617) 522-8102. E-mail:


InterFax enables you to send faxes via e-mail within the US or internationally. InterFax is a fee-based service (billed to your credit card) but, unlike the services already listed, InterFax lets you send faxes anywhere, not just select locations. As of this writing, InterFax costs $5 per month, which includes your first five fax pages. Additional pages cost 50 cents each. There is a one-time sign-up charge of $25. For further information, send e-mail to, or contact InterFax at PO Box 162, Skippack, PA 19474 USA. Phone: (215) 584-0300. Fax: (215)584-1038.


This e-mail-to-fax service lets you send faxes to just about any country you can name. Prices vary accordingly—it's much less expensive to send a fax to a "well-connected" country (like Canada and Sweden) than less-connected places like Laos and the Solomon Islands.

All fax messages are charged on a per-page basis. Faxes to the U.S. and Canada are billed at the rate of 99 cents per page. The rate for international faxes depends on the destination country: $0.99, $1.99, $3.99, or $4.99 per page.

RadioMail stands out because the service doesn't require that you have access to a telephone line—it can work using a wireless modem. To become a RadioMail subscriber, users need a wireless modem and the special RadioMail software. According to the company, "RadioMail supports DOS computers, Macintosh computers and HP Palmtops in addition to providing one-way communications on the Newton." For more information, send e-mail to


Unigate is another pay-for-use service that enables you to send faxes to Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. (It offers other interesting services as well, including the ability to send e-mail that turns into postal mail and the ability to receive faxes as electronic mail.)

Most of us probably don't need to send faxes to Russia, but if you do this is probably cheaper than however you're doing it now. Fax service from USA to Russia (or back) is $1.59 per page; from Russia to Canada is 1.79 per page. For more information, send e-mail to:


This service doesn't quite fit into the e-mail-to-fax arena, but it's close enough to mention here. With FaxLinq, you may receive facsimile messages as e-mail. Your correspondents send a fax to the service's machine, which is converted to a TIFF file and sent to you in a MIME-compliant e-mail message. (You must be able to handle MIME e-mail and view TIFF files—you can't receive faxes as ASCII text.) FaxLinq is a one-way ticket: it doesn't handle e-mail-to-fax transmissions.

There is an annual subscription fee of $39, which includes 10 pages of facsimile transmission. Additional pages received cost $1 per page. FaxLinq uses deposit accounts: you must pay in advance for any faxes you expect to receive. Should a fax be received for you when your account balance is not sufficient to cover the number of pages received, you will be notified by e-mail.

For more information, e-mail or write: Antigone Press, 1310 Clayton Street, Suite 15, San Francisco CA 94114.

Note: For updates on how to send faxes via e-mail, check out my FAQ called (appropriately enough), "How can I send a fax from the Internet?" This file is posted twice monthly to the Usenet newsgroups,, alt.bbs.internet, alt.answers and news.answers. You can also receive it via electronic mail by sending e-mail in the following manner:


Subject: subject line is ignored

Body: send /usenet/news.answers/internet-services/fax-faq

By the way, George Pajari maintains another interesting fax FAQ list. That document is concerned with fax standards and computer-based faxing systems but does not focus on faxing from the Internet. Here are some of the topics it covers:

Can I use my * data modem to send/receive faxes?

Can my fax modem transmit data?

How can I fax PostScript or PCL documents using computer-based fax?

How can I view incoming faxes on my computer?

How can I print incoming faxes on my computer?

Can fax modems also handle data or voice calls?

What resolution are fax images?

Can I take a fax file and edit it?

Is there a standard program interface (API) for fax communications?

How can I share my single phone line with voice, fax, data, and so on?

You can grab a copy from the Usenet groups comp.dcom.fax, alt.fax, or news.answers. It's also available via FTP at*

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