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Anti-virus program could come with fees

USF students, faculty and staff may lose the privilege of downloading an anti-virus program for free this summer, when the contract between the school and software provider is renegotiated.

The current arrangement between the university and Network Associates provides a free copy of McAfee VirusScan Version 4.5.1 for download at as well as free support, including virus profile updates, for students on their home computers. But because the contract expires July 1, students may be charged for the service in the future, an official involved in the re-negotiation said.

“It was outside the scope of their normal contracts that we got all the students and faculty (to download the software) for free, and it’s going to be one of the points of contention in this next round,” said Ted Netterfield, associate director for Academic Computing and Information Technologies at USF. “They’re not as happy about doing it.”

Netterfield said the school paid about $107,000 for the service two years ago, and he expects that price to increase. He said the cost is split between Academic Computing, Information Technologies and Health Sciences Computing, with each department paying a portion of the price based on the number of students, faculty and staff in each department.

“We’re going to pay more,” Netterfield said. “And depending on how the budget comes down this year, we might be forced in a corner to cut quite a bit of it.”

The service is advertised via e-mail. Alex Campoe, associate director and systems administrator for Academic Computing, estimates that 3,000 people took advantage of the free download last semester, but said that number is probably too low. He is in the process of determining the number of users who have downloaded the program this semester in order to present the data to the anti-virus company.

Campoe, who is also involved in the contract, is more optimistic than Netterfield that the service will remain free. Academic Computing does not have the infrastructure to accept payments, he said.

“I don’t think there’s a practical way for us to charge the students for anything like that,” Campoe said. “We don’t charge for any service or any other piece of software that we provide. We don’t have the means to handle money.”

Campoe said the department will try to secure funding from university central funding, then ask some of the bigger IT departments on campus for help if central funding is unavailable.

“Hopefully, the university will see this as a valuable enough piece of software that it would come from central funding versus from individual departments,” Campoe said.

Another option is to direct USF computer users to download freeware virus scanners, but that would require the Academic Computing help desk personnel to familiarize themselves with a new program, as well as the installation of a new support system. For that reason, it would be better to stay with McAfee, Netterfield said.

“The installed basis is huge, and to say July 1 it’s no longer McAfee … it would be a major upheaval to change vendor,” Netterfield said. “So it would have to be a really good reason to move.”

Netterfield and Campoe met with Network Associates representatives to discuss the upcoming contract for the first time Friday and indicated they want the service to remain free.

“It is a point that we drove home very hard Friday,” Netterfield said. “We wanted to continue on with the free VirusScan for faculty and students for home use.”

Network Associates representatives are expected to present a contract offer within the next two weeks. Gary Lopez, an account manager for McAfee Security who attended Friday’s meeting, was out of his office Monday and could not be reached for comment. Campoe said both parties would benefit from a continuation of McAfee services.

“We’re a pretty big customer as far as a single contract goes, so it’s to their advantage that they actually work with us,” he said.