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Why Colleges and Universities Are Blocking VoIP

To take line from P. Diddy and the Notorious B.I.G, “Its all about the Benjamin’s baby.”

Everyone in the VoIP blogosphere has weighed in on the issue colleges and universities blocking the use of VoIP services like Skype. I feel inclined to remind my older brethren (since I am certainly the youngest amongst the group and one who has lived in a dorm room in this decade) that colleges and universities nickel and dime you for everything, including your phone. Being the pack rat that I am, I found one of my old tuition bills (that included room and board costs) and sure enough I was charged $1200 for a year of local phone service and Internet service ($100 per month). Long distance was extra (I never used this), but I do remember it was nine cents per minute.

Now I went to a small private college, so these numbers are most certainly higher then other schools, but even at half that, it is still $600 per year ($50 a month). But for arguements sake, let’s take the number of students dorming at the time (5,500), and what they charged me for one year of service ($1,200), and figure out the revenue the college generated. This comes out to $6.6 Million dollars. $6.6 Million in revenue! And this does not count any of the long distance charges.

In order to service the residents of the college, the college would need three OC-3 (300 T1’s). I got this number by dividing the number of students dorming (5,500) by the number of lines in a T1 (24) and got 229. They probably over-subcribed us and only had two OC-3’s, but i’ll give them the benefit. On average, a OC-3 costs $33,300 per month. Mutiply this by 36 and you get a total yearly cost of $1,198,800 or $217.96 per resident for Internet access.

This leads me to phone lines. For time’s sake, lets say they have a similar cost to that of the data lines $1,198,800 per year, or $217.96 per resident per year. If you add the total cost of data it amounts to $2,397,600. Wow, that leaves over $3 Million to cover variable costs such as labor, equipment, etc. Even if costs remained the same and they charged half as much as they did, it would still result in a nice profit. Is it any wonder that they do not want students using free communication services?

With supporting information like this, it is safe to say that communications is a profit center for a college or university. Because of this, I am thinking that decisions to block services like Skype have more to do with protecting profits, then protecting their network and its bandwidth.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith is a Technology Marketing and Sales Professional

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. dsiegel

    They’ve got to be losing a lot of phones lines to mobile phones. Most students want one anyway so why would they even want a land line? All they’re really interested in is Internet, and they may as well allow VoIP in that case.

    There is a university in the UK that put pico-cells around campus and then brokered a deal with a mobile operator to use their cells for roaming.

    Adapting to the situation almost always works better than trying to block it.

  2. Garrett Smith

    Well the college I used in the example makes it manadatory that all students have a landline phone/Internet in their dorm or suite. At this college and many others, they have a captive audience and they are obviously aware of this and exploiting the hell out of it.

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