Phone revenue may equal computer bonanza
By Sara Marett
One phone company really is giving students the most for the least. Revenue collected by Western's University Students' Council from ACC long distance phone company may be used this year to build a new computer lab on campus.
The phone company donates a portion of each phone bill to the USC. "We collect approximately $120-130,000 a year from ACC," said Jerry Topolski, USC VP-communications. "It was decided three years ago by council to put the money towards improving computer initiatives on campus.
"The plans for a new computer lab are very much in the preliminary stages. There is always a need for more computers on campus."
Topolski said the USC has contacted a computer company named Sun Microsystems of Canada, to determine what kind of system would be most effective for a lab, as well as the possibility of a partnership with the company. "I love the idea of having a company sponsor to help keep costs down," he said.
Rick Baker, a systems engineer for Sun Microsystems, suggested a system that many universities are implementing called slim client systems, which centres around Internet access.
"It is similar to a personal computer, but accesses all technology from the web so it has significantly less baggage than regular personal computers," Baker explained. "This kind of system is cheaper and easier to use and therefore very popular with universities."
Baker said they have not yet considered a partnership for the project, but they do already supply many computers to Western.
The USC is suggesting the proposed lab be located in the education resource centre located in the University Community Centre. "It is an underutilized room," Topolski said, adding currently, students do no take advantage of this space for studying.
Bob Klanac, marketing and services manager for the USC, said he agrees the ERC is an ideal space for a computer lab. "It is currently also not well-utilized as a meeting room and would be a good study space," he said.
Topolski said for the past three years, the revenue from ACC has helped pay for modems to provide Internet access to students.
"It made good sense at the time to give the money to a program that needed it and we now have sufficient modems to meet the current demand," said Jim Walden, general manager for the USC.
Dennis Regnier, operations manager of information technology services said they currently have 150 modems being shared by 4,500 students. "If this ratio gets any higher, it would make it impossible to get in."
Regnier explained some of this year's revenue from ACC will also go towards implementing a short modem pool to expand accessibility of the Internet to students. "This type of access is for students who only want a limited connection time. It's designated for something quick like checking email," he said, adding this type of access should be available this summer.