ISU’s free Internet service safe for now

Tracy Deutmeyer

Off-campus students at Iowa’s three regent universities may not have to pay for Internet service after all.

After Senate File 519 was amended in the Iowa House on Thursday, student hopes for continued free hook-up to the Internet through the Iowa Communications Network were still alive, as long as the Iowa Senate goes along with the House’s version of the bill.

The Senate passed its own version of the bill in March that would have prevented off-campus students and faculty from dialing into the university systems. But the amended bill would allow regent universities and Iowa’s private colleges to continue with their dial-up services.

The bill still denies ICN dial-up access to Iowa’s community colleges and K-12 schools. For the Internet Bill to become law, it must again pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Branstad.

Iowa State students now can get Internet access two ways. Students can “directly connect” to the Internet in a residence hall room, campus computer lab or a faculty member’s office free of charge. Students also can obtain remote access using a modem if they live off campus, said John Kingland, director of the telecommunications department.

“Even if the bill is passed, the residence hall students would do exactly as they do today,” he said.

Off-campus students can dial 268-enet for free connection to campus host machines, like Vincent. For a fee, students can dial 268-4PPP to connect immediately to the Internet.

If students use 268-4PPP, they must pay a $7 monthly charge. If they use the system more than 14 hours during the hours of 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. during one month, they are charged 50 cents for each additional hour.

If the original Senate bill is passed, or if a similar version makes it through the Legislature and is signed by Gov. Branstad, the university would not be able to offer remote services. Instead, off-campus students would have to access the Internet through a private company.

Many ISU students are concerned about the possibility of losing free Internet service — concerned enough to join with students from the University of Iowa and Northern Iowa to influence lawmakers.

Michel Pogge, a Government of the Student Body senator, said he worked with senators from the University of Iowa and UNI over the weekend to draft a protest resolution.

Pogge said the resolution, which will be proposed at Wednesday night’s GSB Senate meeting, tells lawmakers that “students are disappointed that the Legislature could cut access to the Internet” through ICN.

“It’s unique that we’re getting the three regents universities together to lobby to the Iowa Legislature,” Pogge said.

Pogge said he will ask senators to waive the standard second reading of the resolution at the GSB Senate meeting because if the Senate waits too long to act, it will be “too late” to influence lawmakers.

Other students had slightly different views. John Hamilton, another GSB senator, said he doesn’t know every detail of the bill, but he thinks there should be a minimal student fee for Internet access because the state of Iowa “puts out a lot of money” for the ICN.

“We come to college to learn about the real world, and free Internet is not part of the real world,” he said, adding that $7 a month is plenty for students to pay.

State senators have until the end of the session, likely in two or three weeks, to take up the bill.