Regents oppose Internet bill

Jennifer Dostal

CEDAR FALLS — The state Board of Regents took a stand against cutting off free Internet access to off-campus students at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

The regents voted unanimously to oppose Iowa Senate File 519, saying that ending free dial-up access to the Internet through the Iowa Communications Network would be harmful to education.

After getting a thumbs-up from both the Iowa House and Senate, the bill is in the hands of Gov. Branstad. If the governor approves the bill, off-campus students and faculty could be forced to purchase Internet service from private providers. Branstad has three days to sign or veto the bill.

Telephone industry lobbyists who had pushed for the measure met with Branstad aides on Wednesday and emerged saying they were told the governor planned to veto the bill.

They were meeting with reporters Thursday to make their case.

ICN is a state-sponsored fiber-optics network that provides Internet access to state-sponsored universities, government agencies and hospitals for educational, governmental and telemedicinal purposes.

For a hefty price, the university could purchase off-campus Internet access for students and faculty. If private Internet access is purchased, the first-year cost is expected to be about $860,000 for the three regent universities. Of this cost, about $650,000 would go toward operating costs and $210,000 would go to purchase new equipment, said Owen Newlin, president of the Board of Regents.

Mary Sue Coleman, University of Iowa president, said some common U of I sites and databases cannot be accessed through a modem connection because they are licensed. This means that only people connected directly to the site through the ICN can retrieve information. These licensed sites are not open to the public and are only accessible through the university’s ICN Internet connection via its modem pool or campus locations.

The proposed legislation “fails to offer complete access,” Coleman said, because off-campus students would not be able to use these sites through private Internet providers.

Limiting ICN access to on-campus sites will also hinder distance-learning classes that are now taught through ICN and the Internet, said ISU President Martin Jischke.

Modern-communication technology makes location less important, Jischke said, adding that the future of education lies with the Internet and distance learning.

Offering courses through the Internet is a cheap way to distribute educational resources to rural locations that do not have a local college or university, Jischke said. He said the alternative method would be building more universities.

Residence hall rates

The regents unanimously voted to increase room-and-board rates for all three regent universities. ISU students living in residence halls next year will see a 4 percent or $139 increase per semester in their residence hall rates.

University apartment dwellers will also see a rate hike next year. The regents raised apartment rates an average of 5.5 percent. Pammel Court was hit the hardest with a 6.38 percent hike.

The increases will pay for structural improvements and maintenance, said Regent Wayne Richey.

The new apartment rates will take effect July 1 of this year. The new residence hall rates will take effect May 11 of this year.

Parking rates

The board also voted to increase the cost of ISU’s parking permits. A commuter student will pay $37 to park next year, compared to $35 this year. Students parking at Trice Stadium or in the residence lots will pay $34 next year, a 6.3 percent increase from this year’s rate of $32.