February 8, 2002

S.A. Discusses Increased ResNet Cost

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Sparks flew when the Student Assembly (S.A.) questioned Polley McClure, vice president for information technology for Cornell Information Technologies (CIT), about the increase of ResNet rates to $44.45 a month beginning next fall.

ResNet provides high-speed Internet access to most students living on campus. The rate increase represents a doubling of the current annual charge of $205, just over $22 a month.

“In this day, affordable, high-speed Internet access should be a fundamental right to students,” said Abeezer Tapia ’02, chair of the S.A.’s CIT committee, who introduced McClure.

In a recent letter, McClure cited, “expected fiscal constraints in the upcoming year,” and said that, “the University has informed us that it cannot continue subsidizing ResNet.”

“Under the mandates of the University, we are setting prices that meet the costs of the ResNet service,” said McClure.

Last year CIT received approximately $1.5 million from the University to subsidize the deficit in the CIT budget.

“That was always planned to be a temporary subsidy,” McClure said. “We had all hoped that that would continue for three or four years,” she added.

“If another branch of the University offered to subsidize CIT, would the fees go back to normal?” asked Tabia.

“If there were a part of the University that would make an investment that’d be great, but I don’t think there is,” McClure said.

The S.A. is seeking other options to offset the ResNet fee increases.

“Is CIT a monopoly, and is it exploiting its power? Should students switch to Road Runner?” asked Michael Moschella ’02, the vice president of Finance, referring to the popular cable modem service that is available off campus.

“First, you can’t [switch to Road Runner],” McClure said. “Second, I hope we are not exploiting that power.”

Current ResNet subscribers seemed to be no less upset than the S.A.

“I think it is unfair that the University doesn’t subsidize this. There is no competition, so we are forced to pay, and you can’t go without the Internet in the dorm,” said Eugene Licht ’05.

Other representatives questioned if the rise in rates would make students reconsider their housing situations.

“A lot of engineers are going to be really upset, and are not going to want to live on campus next year,” said Thomas Leung ’02, engineering representative. Leung also mentioned that the ability to split one Road Runner account among several people significantly decreased its cost.

Other S.A. members emphasized that students might be able to switch to Road Runner service if cable wires were available in their rooms.

“What will you do to students who will want to switch to a cable modem?” asked Esther Tang ’04, sophomore class representative.

“The fee for ResNet is equivalent to the fee for RoadRunner and the speed is 4 times higher,” McClure responded. McClure also voiced a general opposition to opening up dorm service to competition.

ResNet is currently upgrading its network so that every connection will be dedicated at 10-megabit switched service.

Currently, large users can slow down other students’ connections at high-usage times. Speeds fluctuated wildly this past fall semester as heavy users clogged the network, while transferring large multimedia files that may slow down others’ connections. One percent of Cornell students take up 50 percent of bandwidth available for ResNet users, and two-thirds of all bandwidth is taken up by uploads, according to Tapia.

“Random people around the world are uploading off of Cornell servers,” Tapia said.

Others, however, did not feel that the need to increase bandwidth was the only problem.

“Most students don’t even know what bandwidth is,” said Lindsay Patross ’02, at-large representative. “People need to do simple things like check their e-mail and go online,” she added.

Tapia says that the Committee on CIT is seeking alternatives to the current system, and is considering placing limits on “massive users” of bandwidth.

CIT plans to hold an open meeting for all students to discuss this and other issues on Tuesday, Feb. 12 from 7-8:30 PM in 115 Rockefeller Hall.

Archived article by Peter Norlander