U Networking Services to limit free Internet use for off-campus surfers

by Bei Hu

A new University policy that begins Jan. 1 will set limits on free Internet access through off-campus phone lines.
The new fee plan aims at easing pressure on the University Networking Services’ modem pool. Users who log on to their University accounts through off-campus modems will continue to enjoy 30 hours of free service each month. But the University Networking Services will charge users $4 for every 30-hour block beyond this base amount.
The fees were approved in September by the University Senate Committee on Computing and Information Systems.
University officials said their intention is not to cash in on students and faculty who dial in to the school-administered Internet services.
“The purpose of charging is not to raise money,” said Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “The purpose of charging is to try to encourage better use of the resources that we have.”
“If we recover $100,000 (from the charges), I would be surprised,” added Marshak. “I think it would be more like $50,000.”
This number, Marshak said, falls far short of the $1.4 million the University invests in the modem pool each year, maintaining the modems, staffing University Networking Services and paying costs for telephone line use. “What we are hoping to do,” Marshak said, “is to postpone the need (for new modems) by encouraging better use of the resources we’ve got.”
The University began to provide Internet services to students, staff and faculty in April 1992. Since then, the average daily total of Internet traffic at the University has almost doubled each year, according to Networking Services statistics.
Marshak expects further growth in Internet traffic at the University. Last year, Networking Services maintained a pool of about 800 modems, enabling 800 modem users to access Internet-related functions such as e-mail and World Wide Web searching at the same time.
However, this number of modems was insufficient to meet demands for Internet-related service at the University.
John Miller, an executive assistant at Networking Services, estimates the number of e-mail accounts at the University to total 100,000. About 40,000 day-school and 25,000 extension students have access to University Networking Services, said Donald Riley, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and the head of the Office of Information Technology.
Roughly 35,000 users log into their University accounts through off-campus modems daily, said Carolyn Parnell, a director at Networking Services. By spring quarter 1996, said Parnell, 60 percent of login attempts received busy signals. In response to the increasing Internet demand, Networking Services doubled the number of modems receiving calls to 1,600.
The new fee policy targets users who occupy the lines for hours at a time, even though they may not be using the Internet.
“You don’t want people to abuse it and other people to subsidize the people (who) abuse it,” said Shih-Pau Yen, department director of the Academic and Distributing Computer Services.
In preparation for the policy’s implementation next year, in October Networking Services started to track Internet use by individuals. A total of 2,288 students and 800 faculty and staff whose total Internet access time from off-campus modems exceeded 30 hours received a letter from Networking Services.
Yen said that Networking Services had received some complaints since the policy’s announcement.
“Students, staff and faculty get super deals on that,” he said. “But the question is, if you go from free to charge, even if you charge a nickel or dime, people just question you.”
But he added, “People have the right to ask such questions.”