DukeNet phone surcharge elicts student complaints
Students may have noticed recently an "additional" surcharge on their phone bill.
DukeNet, the University's computer network, links students to the world, but it also appears as that surcharge on all on-campus students' bills every month.
The monthly DukeNet charge amounts to $3.62, an increase from the $2.25 DukeNet charge last year.
This charge has always been part of the local service bill, but this is the first year that the charge has been specifically stated. This may have caused some confusion, said Jim Dronsfield, director of Tel-Com.
The first bill's surcharge, however, was actually greater than usual because the charging period included the full month of September and part of August, Dronsfield said.
Bob Currier, acting director of network communications, said that the increased DukeNet charge would be used to pay for the multimillion dollar capital investment in an underground fiber-optic system as well as some of the daily operation of the system.
The new fiber-optic system, now operational for East and West Campuses, allows students who have purchased an Ethernet card for their computer to hook in directly to the DukeNet system from their rooms.
The final hookups for West Campus were completed last Wednesday, several days earlier than expected, while East has been finished for several weeks, Currier said.
Central Campus residents, however, are still waiting for the system to be completed. "Hopefully four or five houses will be up in a few weeks," Currier said, but he does not expect all of Central to be completed until January.
Some Central residents said they were upset about being charged for a system to which many of them are not yet connected.
"I think it's completely unfair," said Trinity senior Debbie Weaver. "We shouldn't be charged for something we can't have access to."
Off-campus students cannot be hooked up to Ethernet but can still use a modem to log on to DukeNet. Unlike Central residents, however, those living off campus are not charged for DukeNet.
"It's impossible to send bills out if [off-campus residents] are not part of the Duke telephone system," Currier said.
Nevertheless, some on-campus students deemed it unfair to be charged for a service that is seemingly not applicable to them.
"If you don't own a computer, you should not be billed for something people with computers use," said Trinity sophomore Julie Karickhoff.
Dronsfield explained that the universal charge is intended to spread out the cost of the system. "Anyone who uses a telephone is technically a DukeNet user," he said.
Dronsfield also said that everyone will receive the benefits. "If you use the library on-line, a modem pool or a computer cluster you are using the DukeNet system."
Although all students have accounts on DukeNet, just 620 have registered Ethernet cards, Currier said.
Other students, who have been able to use their new Ethernet cards, believe the cost is worth avoiding crowded computer clusters and jammed modem lines.
"At first I was really mad about the charge. But a few dollars a month basically to use long distance services is really not that bad," said Trinity freshman Rahul Sharma. "It's extremely convenient, much faster than a modem."
Still, many students said they should not have to pay more for the new system. "Schools like Dartmouth have had this kind of system for years," said Trinity senior Amy Adams, a Central Campus resident. "I don't think that students should have to pay for Duke getting their act together."
Many students in recent weeks have called Net-Com and the Computer Assist Center to complain about the delays in hooking up the system.
"Obviously there were a lot of people upset that 100 percent of the outlets weren't complete by the beginning of the fall semester," Currier said. "I apologize for the delays, and I hope that getting finished as quickly as we have will encourage people to jump on and use the system."