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Campus Computing News

Computing Center to Discontinue Dialup Network Services

By Dr. Maurice Leatherbury, Senior Director of Academic Computing

The Computing Center's Premium Remote Access Service has been losing subscribers and, unfortunately, money, for the past year. As users have shifted to direct Ethernet connections in the dorms or have chosen to get broadband access from either the phone company (DSL) or the cable company (cable modems,) the income from PRAS has dropped to the point that it won't even pay for the phone lines that users dial into. Faced with that continuing loss in revenue as well as a probable budget cut next fiscal year, UNTís Computing Center will cease providing both paid (PRAS) and free dialup network service to the Universityís users effective August 31, 2003. Both the Information Resource Council and the Council of Deans have discussed the question of dropping dialup service and have approved the change. Existing users of the premium service will continue to receive service through the length of their existing contracts.

A number of factors weighed in the decision to drop dialup line support:

  • At the current subscription numbers, UNT would lose over $7,000 per year on the paid and free lines just on the cost of the phone lines. Other expenses of supporting dialup services include the cost of a technician to support the equipment into which users dial, the cost of help desk wages, and the replacement costs of the dialup equipment. The Stateís budget problems will probably result in a reduction in the Computing Centerís budget next fiscal year, and it was not considered cost-effective to continue supporting a money-losing service.
  • UNTís dialup service was initiated about seven years ago when no cost-effective alternative Internet Service Provider operated in the Denton area. But with the growing popularity of the Internet, there are now close to three hundred ISPs that provide Internet service to the Denton area. UNTís paid and free dialup services simply donít compare well with commercial services:
  • The free remote access service connects at a maximum 33.6kbps, while most ISPs connect at 56kbps.
  • We donít have a 24 X 7 help desk.
  • We donít provide a nationwide "roaming" service that allows connection to our network through a local phone call when traveling outside of the local area, instead of dialing long distance into UNTís dialup lines.
  • We only provide a single e-mail address to subscribers instead of two to dozens of e-mail addresses for subscriberís family members as do commercial ISPís.
  • We donít provide nearly as many newsgroups as most commercial ISPís and in fact are investigating whether we will continue to support newsgroups at all.
  • The personal Web site service we provide is subject to State regulations about commercial use of state property so users canít advertise goods or services as they could on commercial ISPís sites.
  • More than half of the workload at UNTís central computing help desk is related to dialup problems. With the Enterprise Information System starting to come on line this Fall, the help desk will be supporting that new systemís end users. We'd have to either increase the number of help desk workers or reduce support for some other service, such as WebCT, if we added the EIS support without reducing dialup support. Budget constraints prevent us from hiring additional staff, and the other services that the help desk supports are considered more mission-critical than dialup support.
  • The remote access equipment has reached the end of its useful life and we are faced with a significant expense to upgrade the equipment to keep it operating satisfactorily.
  • ISPs can offer a wide range of products including broadband and DSL Internet access (high-speed access generally provided by the local phone company as DSL or by the cable company as cable modem service). It is technically impossible for UNT to provide similar services, so potential subscribers to PRAS that obtain high speed services from an ISP further decrease the number of paid subscribers to our remote access service, with an accompanying decrease in revenue for an already money-losing service

Alternatives for Dialup Users

With nearly 300 ISPs serving the Denton area, students, faculty and staff, have many options from which to choose. Many of the ISPs offer Internet service for $10.00 per month, and many also offer higher speed broadband services at additional charges. ISP locating services are available on the web from www.isp.com or www.ispfinder.com, or by using one of the many search services like Yahoo, Google or MetaCrawler. To find an ISP on a search service, simply enter "ISP Denton Texas," "ISP locator" or "$10 ISP Denton Texas."

Those who can afford broadband service (around $40 to $50/mo.) can ask their local phone or cable provider about service to their homes. Although DSL or cable service isnít available in many locations, those who have subscribed to those types of service have been relatively pleased with their speed and reliability.

As an alternative to paying for Internet access, there are a number of ISPs that offer free dialup services. Although these services are free, you may have to pay the "price" of having to see advertisements on everything you view on the Web with those services. Again, one of the ISP finders can help you find those free services.

The Computing Center is working with Purchasing and Payment Services to see if the University can negotiate with one or more ISPís to offer former users of UNTís remote access services a special deal for using their service. We expect to know the outcome of that effort by mid-June 2003.

Additional information

The Helpdesk has started a Frequently Asked Questions page to which you can refer for additional information about the discontinuance of the dialup lines. You can also E-mail Maurice Leatherbury at leatherb@unt.edu if you don't find the information you're looking for there.