February 12, 2002

ResNet's Revised Rates Higher Than Most Ivies

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ResNet’s rates for next year at $44.45 per month will be nearly three times higher than the network service rates at Harvard, Princeton or the University of Pennsylvania.

Despite the price differences, costs among the universities’ network services are comparable. Students ultimately face all costs associated with the network, but universities have different approaches to how students should pay for those costs.

Students at Cornell can choose to subscribe to the ResNet service, while at other universities network service is bundled with tuition or housing fees and therefore both required and universal in the dorms. Tuition and housing is covered by financial aid, while ResNet, an optional service, is not.

“At these other schools you get the service, but you don’t have a choice. If you are paying more for tuition and room, but you aren’t living on campus, you don’t have a choice,” said Jason Rhoades, director of communications products for Cornell Information Technologies (CIT).

“[The network at Dartmouth] is a service that is like water or electricity; there is not an explicit charge,” said Bill Brawley, the spokesperson for computing services at Dartmouth. “You’re not paying for water are you?”

Dartmouth’s approach to the network as a universal service is not unique; Harvard, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania also reported 99 to 100 percent subscription rates. Currently, 89 percent of Cornell students who are eligible for ResNet are subscribed, according to Rhoades.

Harvard does not charge students directly, but “the actual cost of a connection is about $12 per month,” according to Franklin Steen, director of computer services.

It is not clear, however, what the “actual cost of connection” includes, as many universities subsidize the cost of some of their residential network expenses.

The University of Pennsylvania’s network services, for example, receives approximately $1.5 million from the university to shield students from costs associated with wiring the network. Students there currently pay $15.40 a month, which is included in their housing bill, for network services. Without that subsidy, rates would be approximately $38, according to Michael Palladino, the assistant vice president for information systems and computing.

This year, Cornell subsidized ResNet with $1.4 million. However, in a year of budget tightening, the University decided not to renew that subsidy.

ResNet’s rate increase covers the services’ cost with the disappearance of the subsidy, according to a letter by Polley A. McClure, vice president for Information Technologies. CIT is trying to cut costs by $400,000 for next year to lessen the financial burden.

“If you were to compare our costs to other schools I think we would benchmark pretty well,” said Rohit Ahuja, the director of finance for CIT. “We are making an attempt to recover the costs from the cost-causers.”

“The only question is would it be better [for Cornell] to lump it into a general housing fee?” said Ronald G. Ehrenberg the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics.

Last year at Princeton the network fee was an optional charge separate from housing or tuition fees. Ninety-five percent of Princeton students opted to pay the $16 a month for Internet access in the dorms. This year, Princeton’s network charge was included in the housing fee. “It made record-keeping much easier,” said Peter Olenick, manager of networking.

Cornell students are still expressing their anger at the rate increase and are seeking out other options for Internet service, even if that includes moving off campus.

Rhea Thomas ’04 did not pay for ResNet her freshman year and used the free CIT computing labs for her work. “I felt it was ridiculously priced then,” she said.

Now living off campus, Thomas pays $125 annually for DSL service, a high-speed connection through phone lines, from local provider Danica Computing. “I wouldn’t think of moving back to campus because it’s too expensive,” she said.

CIT will host an open forum to gather student feedback on this and other CIT-related issues from 7 to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow in 115 Rockefeller Hall.

Archived article by Peter Norlander