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The outdated modem pool at the University's Information Systems and Computing unit will be phased out by 2002 because of high costs. (Will Burhop/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

A semester after the University began phasing out its modem pool, officials say most people have successfully switched to commercial services. The modem pool, which allows off-campus students, faculty and staff to go online through the University's network, was established in 1986 and will officially end by mid-2002. The modem pool is being eliminated because of its hefty price tag, which costs the University $1 million per year. Officials also felt that the service, which was limited to the relatively slow 33.6 kbps connections, would not be able to meet the long-term needs of people using it. "To our amazement, to be honest, the transition went pretty well," said Michael Palladino, director of networking and telecommunications in Penn's Information Systems and Computing unit. Last November, University officials announced that the service would be phased out, beginning with the imposition of a user fee beginning last June. The discontinuation of the free service was delayed until August to give ISC more time to publicize the change, according to Palladino. A group directed by ISC staff member Jennifer MacDougall drafted recommendations for the transition process. While the regular modem pool now costs $13.95 a month, an express modem pool -- allowing users to log in for 15-minute sessions for free -- is still available. Palladino said that about 4,000 people have used the express modem pool at least once since August. Approximately 14,000 people used the regular and express modem pools last fall. Only 220 have signed up for Penn's for-fee service. The express modem pool is funded through at least June 2002, Palladino said. "If we need it, we'll keep it," Palladino said. The express modem pool is funded for 180 phones lines, but usage has yet to exceed half that capacity, Palladino said. DCANet, the primary dial-up provider that people are using as an alternative, has a "huge connection" to the Penn network to provide faster service, Palladino said. While DCANet initially had problems handling the mass influx of University users, Palladino noted, they have since added phone lines and a support staff, which has been "very responsive to customer needs." Other ISPs recommended by Penn are AT&T;, Navpoint, Quadnet and Verizon ESG. The University had received less-than-favorable reports about service from Verizon according to Palladino, but some of the complaints may have been the result of a strike that the company experienced this summer. Palladino added that he anticipates that most people eventually will be using high-bandwidth services like DSL and cable to get their Internet access. However, the University is not yet recommending cable modem or DSL services. "We're just not seeing it stable enough to put our stamp of support" on those services, Palladino said. No company yet provides cable modem service in the University City area, Palladino said.

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