Communications Fee

Current Policies

Q. What are the student network and telephone charges?

A. All students who live in on-campus housing may sign up for wired and wireless residential network connections, and all rooms come standard with land-line phones.  To fund these services, all residents are automatically assessed a Communications Fee on the quarterly University Bill, alongside room & board, house dues, etc. Student Computing and Information Technology Services (ITS), along with other University departments including Student Housing Services and Student Accounting/Controller's Office, have collaborated on this plan to better serve students and the University.

Return to top

Q. How much is the fee?

A. The fee for 2013-14 is $62/quarter.

Return to top

Q. What are the benefits to students of the structure?

A. The ubiquity of essential and standard services lowers the cost for all residents and the required Comm Fee appearing on the student bill can be paid directly by financial aid funds.   Students needing more than one network connection will enjoy substantial cost savings compared to a fee-for-service model.  Finally, there are several benefits of universal land-lines, notably reliable emergency 911 service. Other benefits of land-lines on campus are detailed below.

Return to top

Q. What are the benefits to the University of the fee structure?

A. Revenue from the networking portion of the Comm Fee addresses the necessary infrastructure and administrative costs of providing network service. Universal land-line service helps the University fulfill its responsibility to provide students a safe environment in campus residences.

Return to top

Q. Were students consulted in formulating this plan?

A. The details of the plan were formulated by administrators in Student Computing and ITS, and presentations were made to the ASSU Senate and the Graduate Student Council to enlist student support. Following the Provost's approval of the fee structure, we continue working with ASSU leaders to address student concerns, and through the Student Technology Assessment Committee, evaluate this arrangement along with other student technology concerns. Student Computing has been getting feedback on the residential network connection fee for years. This feedback has come from students, from parents, from the RCCs (themselves students), and through the RCCs from all of you as well as they could represent your opinions. There has been widespread agreement for years about the virtue of a universal charge for network service.

Return to top

Costs Involved

Q. On what is the cost of networking portion of the fee based?

A. Infrastructure costs (e.g. fiber-optic cable paths) that used to be subsidized by high subscription rates for telephone service are covered more directly through the Comm Fee. Historically ITS collected funding for infrastructure reaching out to the residences via land-line phone subscriptions, as that was how they recouped residential costs under the fee-for-service model.   Although both services share some infrastructure, the infrastructure costs that are incorporated in the data portion of the Comm Fee have to do with data service, not telephone service.

Return to top

Q. What are the infrastructure costs?

A. The networking and telephone infrastructure share some equipment like fiber-optic cable and the conduit inside which it travels. Conduit is a container tube for cables of any sort. Cables need conduit because they can't very well just lie in the ground or sit on the floors of the steam tunnels. Conduit keeps the cables protected, and makes it easy to thread new cables later. Cables and cable paths are upgraded from time to time, and new paths are laid for new construction, like the Studios in Escondido Village. Since expensive projects are typically amortized, i.e. gradually paid off over a long period of time, the University is still paying for network infrastructure projects completed long ago. This is pretty typical, and Student Housing does the same thing with its projects.

Return to top

Q. Where does the money from the Comm Fee go?

A. The fee goes directly to support student network and phone connections, in three main categories: telephone and network infrastructure, network hardware and staff in ITS Networking, and StuComp professional and student staff who administer and support the residential networks.

Return to top

Q. Does the University make money from these charges?

A. No. Networking is heavily subsidized by the University, with over $400,000 per year in base funding (i.e. the main University budget controlled by the Provost's office) going to support the on-campus student network. The backbone network infrastructure that the residential networks depend on is funded entirely by the University, and so are the connections to the outside ("commodity") Internet and to Internet 2 (connections to other universities and research facilities).

Return to top

Q. Why are these costs not being rolled into tuition or room & board?

A. Increasing either of those charges is...difficult. Tuition is not a good match for these costs anyway, as they apply exclusively to housed students. Adding costly services to room & board, like adding them to tuition, is politically sensitive because it makes the room rate spike.

The Comm Fee will be evaluated each year. Students will participate in this evaluation through a newly-formed Student Technology Assessment Committee. As technologies including cell phone technology evolve, and as the fee becomes stable, other funding models might be discussed.

Return to top

Q. What do services like these cost off campus?

A. Typically high-speed Internet via DSL or Cable Modem costs about $50/month (for a connection much slower than on-campus), and basic telephone service costs about $15/month.

Return to top

Telephone Service

Q. What are the benefits of land-line telephones?

  • When a student calls 911 from a land-line, emergency personnel can see the student's location, which is essential if the student becomes incapacitated. Exact location cannot currently be traced from a cell phone, even with the use of global positioning (GPS).
  • With a land-line students can use the "Door King" system to buzz visitors into the building. That functionality isn't currently available with cell phones. Issues of concern include the fact that the Door King system would need to make long distance calls, but more importantly there is no easy way for the Door King system to tell if the cell phone is physically nearby. Students should obviously not be able to buzz visitors in from back home or out of State.
  • With all students having local phone numbers, none must pay for long distance calls to call others. Currently many students have cell phones from back home with strange and different area codes. If you don't yourself have a cell phone with a nationwide plan, calls to those students can be expensive.
  • In the last earthquake, land-lines worked but cell phones didn't. Cell phone technology has come a long way since then, but it's still comparatively new and unreliable. Cell phone service systems are actually built on over-subscription, so when all users try to connect at once (e.g. in an emergency), not everyone can get through.

Return to top

Q. Will the University provide a physical telephone, along with the service?

A. Yes.

Return to top

Q. What if I don't want a University phone - can I opt out of this service and the Comm Fee?

A. You cannot opt out. All student rooms will have land-lines and telephones available for safety and emergency use, even if you choose not to use your phone for local service. Not all students take equal advantage of all University services, but for the most part all pay for them through tuition, room & board, etc. That will now be the case with telephones.

Return to top

Q. Can I still get long distance service or additional phone lines?

A. Yes. Long distance service is available for any land-line phone, billed on students' monthly communications bill from ITS (with cable TV service, if applicable). Students may sign up and pay for additional phone lines, especially useful in two-room doubles and graduate housing.

Return to top

Q. What if I'm in a two-room double, or an apartment, or a quad?

A. Doubles and triples, regardless of the number of rooms, come with one phone. Apartments  come with one phone as well. Quads or larger rooms may come with two physical phones based on layout, but will have only one phone line even if there is more than one physical phone.

Return to top

Q. Where can I get more information on phone service?

A. For general information, see http://studentphones.stanford.edu/ . If you're around for the summer, there's information there specifically for you, as well as a Phone Installation FAQ.

Return to top

Miscellaneous

Q. What if I live in a Fraternity, or a Sorority, or Chi Theta Chi?

A. Greek houses and privately owned houses are billed en masse by the University based on the number of residents, and in turn collect room and board from those residents. As such, residents of these houses do not have charges for room or board on their quarterly University bills. To be consistent when it comes to the Comm Fee, the houses will bill their residents for the normal fee amount along with room and board, and each house will pay the University in one lump sum.

Return to top

Q. If I live in couples housing, will we both be charged? What about family housing?

A. Only students who pay room rent will be charged the Comm Fee. In couples and family housing, one student is the contract holder (even with two-student couples), and that student will receive a single charge.

Return to top

Q. What if I move off campus during the quarter - will I get a refund?

A. Refunds for the Conm Fee will be handled the same way they are for house dues. The fee won't be prorated - rather, you will get a full credit if you move out before a certain point, and no credit after that. Currently, refunds are approved for housing contracts ending before the fifth Saturday of the quarter. The refund will happen automatically when you get refunded for room & board.

Return to top

Q. If I'm in housing continuously, is there a Comm Fee for intersession?

A. No. Room and board charges for Interim housing (e.g. the month between Summer and Autumn quarters) appear on your University Bill, but there won't be any associated Comm Fee for that period.

Return to top

Q. How can I provide feedback about the Comm Fee?

A. Email telecomfee@rescomp.stanford.edu

Return to top

Q. What if I have other questions about my University Bill?

A. Please submit a request under the appropriate category at HelpSU.

Return to top

Q. What if I have problems with my land-line phone or service?

A. Please direct your questions about phone service to the ITS Help Desk (you can also call 5-HELP).

Return to top

Q. What if I have problems with my networking service?

A. For computer and network questions in the residences, please talk to your RCC

Return to top