October 20, 2006

Skype Lets C.U. Talk for Cheap

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Several colleges have begun to discourage or even ban the use of Skype, the free Internet phone service, citing that the technology could clog network resources and give hackers a way to access university servers.
Cornell, however, has decided not to join the masses, according to Josh Ogle ’08, a helpdesk supervisor for Cornell Information Technologies.

Unlike other universities which offer unlimited bandwidth to its students, Cornell caps usage at 5 GB per month. If students go over this limit, they are notified of overuse charges and must pay extra for each additional Gigabyte.

“What makes Cornell better than a lot of other schools is that when we allow people to do things [such as using Skype], [they] just have to pay for it,” Ogle said.

And with Cornell’s usage policies, facing charges for Skype usage may be a rare occurrence. According to Ogle, most people use under 2 GB per month for simple Internet usage. Skype requires about one additional GB for regular usage and up to 4 GB for heavy use.

With Cornell’s generous bandwidth allowance, few students have had problems with Skype. “We’ve certainly heard of people going over because of using programs like Skype,” said Ogle, but he said these problems are few and far between.

Unlike at other schools, usage of Skype at Cornell has been met with little hesitation. “There haven’t been any issues that I’ve heard of. The only thing we’ve heard is that Skype works perfectly.”

For some students, like Dave Kurcewski ’08, Skype is a blessing. Kurcewski uses the program about once every two weeks and expects to use it even more when studying abroad in Singapore next semester.

“I think it’s great. It allows people to talk with each other much more easily. Its low cost puts global communication within financial reach of anyone with a computer,” said Kurcewski.

But other students who were once reliant on Skype no longer are dependent on the program.
Arthur Barnard ’08, who used to use Skype at least once a day, said, “I don’t use it so much now that I have a working cell phone with a great plan.”

Skype offers free calls anywhere within the US or Canada, as well as any Skype user worldwide, compared to many cell phone plans that range from $20 to $60 per month.

Skype also offers cheap rates when calling land phones internationally. Calling most countries in Europe, for example, is about two cents per minute.

Kurcewski, however, claims that cell phones and Skype are not really comparable. “[Skype] is cheaper than any phone for calling out, but you can’t put a computer in your pocket,” he said.