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Phone, Network Costs May Change in FY08

By John A. Hawkinson

Information Services and Technology will be looking at a “radical restructuring” of billing for all telephone and networking services at MIT, according to Allison F. Dolan, IS&T’s director of telephony.

The restructuring could potentially eliminate monthly charges for each telephone line and IP address, replacing them with a central charge. Changes to the pricing model would take effect July 2007 for fiscal year 2008. Dolan said that pricing for fiscal year 2007, starting July 2006, would likely remain the same as current pricing.

Speaking Friday at an invitation-only IS&T-sponsored forum, Dolan described the current billing practices as “archaic.” IS&T breaks down phone charges into local and long distance, Dolan said, but those charges have been decreasing. Dolan said that the billing for network services is structured around the number of ethernet jacks, but the campus is becoming increasingly wireless.

Currently, network service is billed at $17 per IP address per month, and telephones are billed at $20–$37 per phone, depending on type. Housing pays $3 for telephones in dormitories, and students desiring full phone service must pay the difference: $17 dollars.

Dolan suggested several ways that a price restructuring might work: a fixed cost per person; funding from the general Institute budget; or a cost per person in proportion to salary, meaning, for example, that a professor’s contribution would be larger than a janitor’s.

This month, IS&T will convene a committee from across the Institute to produce a concrete proposal by spring 2006. That proposal would then be reviewed by the Institute’s Budget Finance Steering Group in August, with a final decision made around September 2006.

In an interview, Dolan said she hopes to treat telephones and networking like water and electricity. For example, a laboratory with many computers would not have to pay more for its networking, just as it does not pay more for power.

This restructuring would affect recurring monthly charges; there would still be separate installation charges.

Athena cluster changes planned

At the same forum, M.S. Vijay Kumar, IS&T’s director of academic computing, announced an intention to continue to modify Athena clusters in response to changes in student use patterns.

In summer of 2004, IS&T remodeled portions of the W20-575 and 56-129 Athena clusters to produce workspace intended for collaboration. Kumar said that IS&T would try to assist those previous changes, as well as provide two more collaborative spaces.

Kumar said in an e-mail that IS&T has not identified specific locations for these spaces and intends to solicit community input through IS&T’s Student Technology Advisory Board and the MIT Council on Educational Technology.

Kumar said that the work would take place over the current academic year, but he declined to specify the budget.