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Hull axes bundling cable, phones

The cost of cable television and telephone service will not be incorporated into room rates for the 2003-2004 academic year, as Residential Life and Housing Services Director Eddie Hull shot down the idea at Thursday's Campus Council meeting before it could be voted upon.

Hull said bundling cable and telephone service with the room rate would be "very expensive" and that he has too many other competing priorities, including a new East Campus dormitory, major West Campus renovations and an RLHS debt-management effort. Also, he has already put a ceiling on forecasted rate levels for 2003-2004.

According to e-mails obtained by The Chronicle, a fundamental disparity exists between Campus Council President Anthony Vitarelli and administrators on how expensive the bundling would be. Hull and Michael Scott, director of finance and administration for RLHS, wrote in separate e-mails that bundling would only make sense if there were no way for students to opt out of the services. Vitarelli countered by writing that an opt-out feature was necessary from his standpoint, but that relatively few students would opt out since the cost of service would be considerably reduced.

Hull said he was not at all sure that opt-outs would be minimal, given that current usage levels of around 50 percent for cable television was "not a strong mandate." The rise of cellular phones and the University's dubbing of e-mail as the official form of communication suggested the same weak mandate for telephone bundling, he added.

For Vitarelli, the 50 percent usage level is not a relevant statistic since it is for a markedly higher-priced service than would be offered under the bundled system, he wrote. With more students in tow, the Office of Information Technology could drastically reduce rates for both cable and telephone service.

Hull said he is not totally opposed to the system and would consider re-examining it down the road. He said he would need to see very strong sentiment from the student body, however, to consider it.

The silver lining to the botched proposal was apparent to Vitarelli at Thursday's Campus Council meeting. "It's disappointing that, practically speaking, we can't do it this year, but it also lightens our agenda," he said.

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