IT outlines new dial-up

Ten days.

That’s all the time left for off-campus users to access USF’s dial-up internet service for free.

According to Claire Robinson, vice president for Budgets and Human resources in Information Technologies, the highly publicized July 1 cutoff date for the free service was forced by recent university budget cuts.

Robinson said IT, which controls USF’s dial-up service, is advocating several options for students once the free period ends.

“We are telling them that there are a number of alternatives available, some of them may be free,” Robinson said. “Each individual needs to make a decision on how he or she will access the internet.”

Two of the options suggested by IT are paid dial-up services offered through the university. The first is a basic dial-up offered for $5.99 a month.

Christopher Akin, coordinator for computer applications, said the service will serve only the local area and may be renewed on a monthly basis.

“That’s basically the very no-frills service, like what the dial-up offered now is,” Akin said.

In addition to the basic $5.99 service, IT will offer a $13.95-per-month service that allows nationwide, anytime access. Akin said in addition to allowing dial-up from each of the lower 48 states, the service will provide users with five non-USF email addresses, space to create a Web site, newsgroup feed and 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week technical support.

“That’s more like a replacement for AOL,” Akin said. “That’s for people that travel a lot.”

The nationwide service, which will run at 56 kilobytes, will be handled by an independent company called iSupportISP. Akin said IT pays nothing to iSupportISP but instead receives a commission for students who purchase the service.

“They’re not local. They’re from the Northeast,” Akin said. “They’re like a wholesaler for internet service. We sign a contract for usage, (but) we do not pay anything to iSupport.”

Robinson said IT is in the process of advertising both of the services to students, faculty and staff who currently use the USF dial-up. She said she wants all users to be aware of the options.

“We are sending messages to students. As soon as those are received, we will be using them in student orientation,” Robinson said. “We are marketing both of these services, as well as the availability of free mobile messenger service.”

Robinson said the new pricing on internet services has been created to help defray the cost of running the service. She said the service costs about $184,000 annually. With budget cuts on campus, Robinson said dial-up was a likely choice to control costs.

“Looking at universitywide technology, we looked at all the things that could be cut, and we felt this was least damaging,” she said.

Robinson said there are currently 7,700 USF dial-up users. She said, after the upcoming deadline, IT estimates the number of users will drop to roughly 3,100.

“If we do that, we will cover overhead and cover some marketing costs,” Robinson said.

“We’re trying to break even with it.”

Much of the criticism IT has received surrounding the decision to charge for dial-up has revolved around the possibility of profit. At the goal of 3,100 users, IT will earn $222,828, about $40,000 above the break-even point, not including commission of what Robinson said will be about $2 per month per user on iSupportISP national service.

Robinson said profit will be used for IT improvements in the university.

“If we get more in the agrigate, the excess will be used to adjust the number of lines or the university’s 100 (megabytes per second) system,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the 100 mbps system is being installed in campus computer labs and in dormitories. She said the system will allow for high-speed usage, including streaming video and interactive sources.

Robinson said the project is a long-term goal, which was already begun and funded. She said the last part was financed last year, and the profit gained from selling internet service will be used to pay the $1.2 million debt.

Robinson said the importance of the 100 mbps system and the paid dial-up is to provide students with the best service possible after three rounds of budget cuts. She said she looks forward to working cooperatively with students and iSupportISP.

“We want to provide high service for a low price,” she said.