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ACUS Rate to Drop After Renegotiation

By Dudley Lamming
staff reporter

Students will see reduced long-distance rates this year as a result of the renegotiation of AT&T's contract with the Institute.

Rates through the AT&T College and University System are now at 20 cents per minute for phone calls placed between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., monday through friday, and nine cents per minute at other times, down from 15 cents per minute last year.

Information Systems formed a task force last year to investigate rates and companies in preparation for the July contract expiration. Extensive surveys conducted by IS revealed that the 59 percent of MIT students who use ACUS were dissatisfied with the system's pricing scale.

Almost half of the students who use ACUS rated the service poor, and only 14 percent ranked it good.

The old rates were "simply uncompetitive," said Christine Cavanna, a business analyst for Information Systems.

The Graduate Student Council also conducted a comparison between MIT's rates and the rates at other universities last year and found MIT's pricing scale to be unacceptable, said John P. Mellor G, then-member of the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee, in an interview last year.

The search process was conducted with a great deal of haste; MIT began negotiating with AT&T, MCI, and Sprint in April, three months before the last contract was due to expire. "This was simply the best deal that we could obtain," Cavanna said. The new rate structure will last for three years.

Student Advantage comes to MIT

Along with the reduced rates, all ACUS members will receive a Student Advantage card. Student Advantage is a program that enables students to receive discounts from many national retailers along with a 15 percent discount on Amtrak and Greyhound service, according to information released by AT&T.

Originally, MIT students were not going to receive Student Advantage cards due to the Institute's reluctance to give out student data.

"No one at MIT was interested in lifting the privacy restrictions," said GSC President Geoffrey J. Coram G. However, a compromise was reached and the cards will be distributed.

Currently, the GSC has distributed some cards to graduate students. The GSC, along with Information Systems, will handle distribution of the cards. Undergraduates will have to wait until October, at the earliest, to receive the cards, Coram said. Detailed instructions for obtaining the cards will be sent with the September ACUS bill, he said.

It is hoped that this bonus will, at least in part, increase satisfaction with ACUS. "I think it's a much better bonus," than T-shirts or water bottles, Coramsaid.

Campus cable rates rise

While ACUSrates on campus decrease this semester, students will have to pay more for cable. MediaOne, formerly known as Continental Cablevison, has raised its rates slightly to $14.75 per month, with a nine-month option at $125.

With this rate increase, cable service customers can now receive ESPN2, which was "the most requested during the last year," said Randy Winchester of MIT Cable Television. These rates will be locked in for the next two years.