August 29, 2011

Students Call for End to University Internet Charges

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More than 300 students have signed an online petition as of Saturday morning, calling for an end to the University’s policy of limiting Internet bandwidth by charging students $0.0015 per megabyte for exceeding a monthly cap of 50 gigabytes. Cristina Lara ’14 created the petition this summer on the website change.org. Lara said she was charged about $90 each month last year for exceeding the bandwidth cap.“My main goal was to see the response of the Cornell population. If a lot of people signed, I would take it to the administration. And if no one did, then I would drop it,” she said.Explaining why many students exceed the monthly cap, Lara states in the petition that “if Cornell was situated in a major metropolitan area with a vast nightlife that could accommodate the interests of most, if not all, our undergraduates, then many Cornellians wouldn’t be so inclined to stay in their rooms and get on the Internet.”Lara said she has received “hurtful” comments on many news websites in response to this explanation.“I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary. I’m doing something helpful for the student body.” Lara said. “I’m not sitting around Skyping with my mom all of the time, and I wouldn’t classify myself as a nerd. I go out; I have fun. My main goal here is just to get what a lot of schools already have.”Although the cap was raised from 20 gigabytes to 50 gigabytes in July, the policy makes Cornell the only Ivy League school to charge students for Internet usage. The University’s bandwidth cap is a business model that allows students excellent network performance and a high degree of transparency in exchange for capping their Internet usage, according to Tracy Mitrano, director of information technology policy, who is also on The Sun’s Board of Directors.“The vast majority of colleges and universities use a ‘traffic-shaping’ approach, where network administrators can use a variety of different controls to discriminate against certain types of users,” Mitrano said. “They can turn up and down the protocol, which have the effects of content filtering or monitoring.”Mitrano added that without Internet bandwidth management, the “pipes” would fill up quickly and all users’ service would be disrupted. According to Cornell’s Information Technologies’ website, less than 10 percent of students incurred charges for exceeding the 20-gigabyte limit in the Spring 2011 semester, although the limit has increased every academic year since 2008.Lara has not yet taken her petition directly to the University, but she said that she plans to speak with administrators after receiving more signatures. “My main plan here is to ensure that students who are charged for Internet have the ability to voice their opinion,” Lara said. “I hope that Cornell students are not apathetic to this issue — if not for themselves, then but perhaps for a friend or a neighbor.”

Original Author: Liz Camuti