Proposal could charge students for Internet access

Lindsey Reed

Students on the Hill may be getting faster Internet service, but it will come with a price.

Richard Kirchmeyer, vice president of Information Technology, said he has proposed a plan to Housing and Residence Life that would require students living in dorms to pay a monthly fee toward upgrades.

Students would be charged an average of $12 a month for a total of $108 per academic year, according to the plan.

“If you want to help the students, you have to make a significant leap,” he said.

The state provides Western’s Internet service with 30 megabits per second for free, he said.

The entire main campus, extended campuses and community college currently share the 30 mbs, he said.

An upgrade of 45 mbs would be provided for use only in the dorms under the proposal.

Kirchmeyer said the proposal has been in planning since the beginning of last spring.

It wants to provide students with “high-speed business-quality-level Internet access,” he said.

“We’re encouraging all faculty to use it and students to use it for research and study purposes,” he said. “If we’re encouraging it, we need to provide a good quality-sized service.”

Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life, said the current Internet service gets bogged down because it is shared between academic departments, administrators and dorm residents.

“We want to get the best we can get for students,” he said. “They’re going to see a much more improved service.”

Kuster said the fee would be charged with regular semester housing fees, instead of on a monthly basis.

Kuster said HRL would try to negotiate a cheaper price if possible as discussion continues.

HRL’s budget for the next year is due in February, he said.

Kirchmeyer said the Internet services provided by the state won’t be free after this year, which is why a fee is necessary.

Kirchmeyer said it would be cheaper to go through the new state contractor, which is Alltel, rather than a private company.

“We’re hoping that with the Alltel network, things will get a lot better,” he said.

An upgrade would provide higher bandwidth, quicker downloads and one dedicated network for those living in dorms,he said.

Kirchmeyer said a cheaper fee wouldn’t pay for enough bandwidth to make a big difference in the current Internet speed.

“It wouldn’t make sense to charge anything less,” he said.

The $12 monthly fee would also cover the cost of taking over the maintenance and future equipment purchases, he said.

Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and campus services, said there have not been any decisions on whether or not to implement the proposal.

“We’re not, at this point, ready to do anything,” he said.

The new state budget cuts may put a hold on further discussion for the time being, he said.

“We’re going to have to get a better understanding of what students want and what they’re willing to pay,” he said.

Cincinnati sophomore Jennifer Buescher, said her Internet service in McLean Hall is fast enough.

“It’s fine for me,” she said. “I don’t use my computer often.”

Buescher said an extra fee and faster Internet is not a priority right now.

“We pay for so many other things on campus,” she said.

John Bradley, Student Government Association president, said SGA has not discussed the issue at length.

Network access in the dorms is slower than it should be, he said.

Bradley said he understands that students are paying more in tuition, but said higher quality Internet service is a priority.

“I think the rationale is very sound,” he said.

Kuster said results from HRL’s “Quality of Life” survey taken last semester, which addresses Internet quality, will be used in considering whether or not to approve the fee. Kuster expects the results in the next few weeks.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]