Officials to Collect Charge for Network Upkeep in Dorms

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Students in UC Berkeley's residence halls are questioning a charge university officials plan to collect for maintaining the campus computer network.

Housing and Dining Services must cover a $732,000 cost to sustain the network's infrastructure, according to preliminary budget documents. The "data node recharge" is expected to cost each dormitory resident a minimum of $97 for the 2000-01 academic year.

Jeremy Chien, current president of the Residence Hall Assembly, said yesterday that the expense has raised the eyebrows of students.

"At this point, no one on RHA has been approached to see if this is a good idea," Chien said. "Students did not aid in making the decision. The RHA is looking into it because this charge is coming from nowhere."

Although funds for network maintenance must have a source, he said the payment amounts to an expectation that next year's residence hall dwellers will pay for this year's "use and abuse."

Information services officials have said, however, that until now, campus departments have not paid for many of the costs required to maintain the network. The charge is nothing more than a reflection of those costs, said Angela Blackstone, the director of information systems in housing and dining.

"It's a move by the campus to be able to fund the network at its current state," Blackstone said. "Technology is expensive. Up to this point, no departments have paid for ongoing maintenance - the wiring and the infrastructure that delivers the services."

Although campus officials said they are examining various ways to structure payment for Internet access, Jack McCredie, associate vice chancellor of Information Systems and Technology, said developing network service charges is a complex task.

Users currently pay for only one set of services, he said. Blackstone's division, for example, pays for the cost of the connections from the residence halls back to the network.

But McCredie added that users do not pay directly for the campus network.

"There is somewhat of a question on how much that should be recouped outside of housing and dining services," he said. "Those (services) are all provided free."

The technology is not yet in use on campus, but McCredie said that in the future, students in the residence halls will pay prices that reflect use levels, much like they do now for long-distance phone calls.

"We are moving very close to a 'phone system' service that people want," he said. "What you will see in the future is that each terminal will get a charge. A certain amount (of service) will be subsidized, but then there will be additional charges. Right now it has to be aggregated by big units."

Nevertheless, the payment has left students living in residence halls out of the loop, said Rafael Chabran, an assistant budget analyst in housing and dining and a former president of the Residence Hall Assembly.

Chabran said he is concerned that students were asked to bear an excessive financial burden and that administrators did not explore alternative solutions, such as private sector partnerships.

"In a competitive market, companies are going to have a tendency to provide the best service at a competitive cost," he added. "If one department has control, it's a monopoly. It bothers me because this is a public university."


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