March 12, 2003

ResNet Foresees Changes in Fees

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Starting in July 2003, the billing system for the Cornell data network will be based on a new model, designed to provide a more fair and equitable billing structure for all users. The new system will charge users based on how much they use the network.

The process to determine the new network rates began two years ago when a paper was distributed by Cornell Information Technology (CIT) to “start the dialogue,” recalled R. David Vernon, director of Information Technology Architecture. Subsequently, a committee formed recommendations based on the feedback to the paper to configure the new charges.

The current system only charges a flat port fee that provides unlimited network and internet use.

Students living on campus currently pay $44.45 per month, while academic departments and administrators pay $29.35, excluding department charges.

The new network rates will take into account three components: a port fee, an infrastructure tax, and a usage fee. The port fee will be charged to every ethernet port installed and maintained by CIT.

For students using Resnet from their dorm room, this port fee will be $26.35 per month, which amounts to $237.26 for a 9-month academic year. Academic and administrative ports will incur a $7.50 charge per month, but will also have to pay an infrastructure tax, which will be recovered through the campus allocation method.

Students’ port fees include the infrastructure tax, which accounts for the higher rates. This infrastructure tax makes it possible to have public ports and wireless service.

All ports will be charged a usage fee of $4.00 per month for anything between 2 megabytes (MB) and 2 gigabytes (GB) of wide area network use, which includes general internet use.

This is intended such that a “flat fee that would encompass a large percentage of campus users,” explained Vernon.

The minimum 2MB allows for ambient traffic from the internet to avoid the monthly usage fee. As such, a port that is only used for a printer will not be charged for internet access it does not use. On the other end of the range, the maximum 2GB of use covered by the $4.00 fee is going to be sufficient for close to 90% of all campus users.

Any use above 2GB will be charged three tenths of a cent ($0.003) per MB of use on top of the $4.00 fee.

With these changes, users who place a particularly heavy load on the network will pay extra for that use, instead of letting the average consumer pay part of those charges. The high monthly charges for heavy users is expected to deter them from continuing such heavy use.

While the new fee system is expected to recover the same amount as the current system, the performance of the network is supposed to improve.

“You’ll probably get better service because we project a reduction in the demand on the wide area,” said Vernon.

Many other universities are facing similar difficulties with the cost and performance of their networks. Some have begun packet shaping, which decides what information is good data and what is bad data. The good data is then sent with higher priority over the bad data. Other schools have continued to allow unlimited internet access, leaving the users to suffer decreased performance.

The main issue is that the “money coming in match the demand for consumption,” said Vernon.

One of the main draws on internet bandwidth at many universities, including Cornell, is student use of peer-to-peer services. Cornell is continuing its policy of leaving decisions about internet use in the hands of users.

If users want to “run a large peer-to-peer server, assuming this is legal information, and you want to spend more than $4.00 per month, that’s [their] business,” Vernon said.

Overall, the new system will bring down the price for the average user, someone who uses the computer to access web pages and e-mail.

The manner in which this cost is billed to the students is also changing in the coming fiscal year. Resnet fees will be included in housing costs, so they will be covered by the room and board allotment of financial aid. Currently, students using financial aid have to pay Resnet charges from the financial aid given for “personal expenses, or else they just pay it themselves,” said Susan Murphy, vice president of student and academic affairs.

The equitable system that is set to begin in July has met the approval of Ian Wang ’04.

“Good. People who are using it reasonably shouldn’t be penalized for those who use it excessively,” said Wang.

Meredith Arfa ’05 agreed: “I think it’s a good idea considering the outrageous cost of Resnet currently, and the fact that most universities include internet fees with the housing fees.”

Archived article by Tony Apuzzo