Fate of Internet fees to be decided soon

by Heatherstone

Decisions regarding implementation of off-campus Internet access charges for San Diego State University students are still being worked out.

According to Bob Cademy, systems analyst in Business and Financial Affairs, the issue is being discussed by the new Campus Fee Advisory Committee.

“Joe Vasquez (director of Business Services, Administrative Computing and Telecommunications) presented a proposal to the committee on Nov. 15 and handed out a sheet with questions and answers on it (about the proposal),” Cademy said. “On Dec. 6, the committee will get more information, and they will vote on Dec. 13.”

The Campus Fee Advisory Committee was set up by executive order by the university trustees. Cademy said the committee considers any increase in fees.

Comprised of 11 members, the commitee includes six students, a Senate chairperson or designee, a faculty member elected by the Senate, and the vice presidents of Student, Business and Academic Affairs or their designees.

Cademy said a request has been made to add staff representation to the committee.

“If the committee votes in favor of (charging for off-campus Internet access), the proposal goes to the president and he rules on it,” Cademy said.

He added the proposal still retains the fees that will begin at the start of the spring semester.

Students who wish to access the Internet from an off-campus location will be charged $15 per month for unlimited access. They will be able to pay with their AztecCards.

Cademy said payment by credit cards is under consideration.

The charges will affect students who already have access through SDSU and students who sign up for new accounts.

“Students wishing to use text only would not have to pay,” Cademy said. “But if they want graphics, like Eudora or Netscape, the students will have to pay.”

Students can still access the e-mail system for free through a variety of different programs, including the popular Pine program, Cademy said.

He said students are being charged because existing funds are unable to meet the demand for service.

“The only way we can come up with enough modems to meet the demand is with a different revenue stream,” Cademy said. “Access was free before now because it was funded by the state.”

He said when the system was initially set up, it was for students who used the access as part of their curriculum. With the increased popularity of the Internet, people are using the modems to browse the Web.

“In many cases, it’s education-related,” Cademy said. “But in many cases, it’s not.

“The initial pool of modems can’t meet up with all of the other student population. We couldn’t keep up.”

Cademy estimated about 15,000 SDSU students access the Internet through the school. Yet only 200 modems serve the university community, he said.

“The standard in the Internet service provider industry is 15 users per modem,” Cademy said. “(With the current number of modems), we should be able to handle 3,000 people, and there are far more trying to dial in from home.

“The goal will be to get enough modems for that ratio, but it all depends on revenue.”

Cademy said these charges are a way to address problems that have surfaced over the last two years.

“There have been a lot of complaints over the last two years over busy signals and not enough modems,” he said. “This is a way to address those specific issues.”

Faculty and staff do not have to pay under the current proposal, Cademy said.

“The handout that we gave out at the meeting says faculty and staff have free access ‘so they can perform some of their job functions at home.'”