Fast Internet: Student Want or Student Right?

Photo illustration by Dave Chase
Photo illustration by Dave Chase

Ah, reading days. A glorious break from the daily grind of classes, papers and the fast-paced life that is St. Mary’s College. Four days of bliss, where everything on campus slows to a lazy crawl… everything, of course, except the Internet. For those of us who had the pleasure (or burden) of being on campus for reading days, we experienced the forgotten sensation of a blazing fast Internet.

YouTube videos loaded instantly, Hulu was faster and clearer than cable, and Pandora did not once pause to buffer. Access to such rich Internet media certainly made it challenging to… well, read… but it was not so distracting as to prevent the question, why isn’t our Internet always this fast?

Surely there is an argument to be made that having fast Internet directly impacts our ability to learn. Faster Internet improves our ability to research, use interactive education tools, and access the vast wealth of video and media available for educational purposes.

The real argument is that we each pay somewhere between $5,500 and $6,500 each year to live on campus and for that we deserve reasonably fast Internet in our dorm rooms.

I understand that given a limited amount of resources the school must set priorities as to how best to spend that money. However, our Internet needs to be made a top priority. The Internet is used extensively by every student on campus, without exception. What else on campus is used by every student, every day? Bathrooms, probably; maybe the path.

My roommate and I pay the school about $11,000 per year for our lovely little room in PG. Verizon FiOS costs $600 per year. FiOS offers speeds that are 20-40 times faster then what we currently are receiving in the dorms.

Split a FiOS line between two or three rooms and we are talking about $100-$150 per person. That is $270,000 per year; which is a lot of money until you consider that the college operating budget for next year is $64 million. $270,000 is less then half of one percent of our annual budget.

From the school’s perspective, it’s a win-win. There is simply no other way to more drastically improve the quality of life on campus, reduce student frustrations or improve productivity for less then $300,000 a year.

I love the new boathouse, and I am glad that there are plans in the works to replace Anne Arundel Hall, both are important to the growth and evolution of our campus. However, the school’s next capital campaign should be to update our IT infrastructure to provide reasonably fast Internet to the dorms. For students, fast Internet is not a want. It is a necessity.

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