Lofts to get faster Internet

The University is signing on to a new AT’T service to provide cable TV, Internet and home telephone at the Calhoun Lofts, AT’T spokesman Dan Feldstein said.

The Calhoun Lofts, which began construction last fall, will be marketed toward graduate and professional students after completion in summer 2009.

UH President Renu Khator signed a deal this spring although contract negotiations will be finalized within a week, Diane Murphy, associate vice president of Student Affairs, said.

U-verse, introduced to the Houston area in November 2006, has several advantages over what other residence halls at UH currently offer, Javier Hidalgo, residential life and housing director of operations, said.

"The group that we are targeting for Calhoun Lofts is graduate students, so there is a high need for technology when it comes to research and the type of tools that they need," said Hidalgo. "We are constantly looking for ways to improve the services to our students and this might work as a paradigm to offer the same thing everywhere."

The demand for service came from researching offerings from local real-estate locations, such as apartments, which are the biggest competition for residence halls, Murphy said.

U100 will include 100 channels and a broadband Internet connection. Extra channels, including on-demand programming and faster Internet speeds, will also be available.

In addition to the basic Internet speed of 1.5 megabits per second at Calhoun Lofts, U-verse will allow peer-to-peer and torrent connections.

Students residing in other residence halls said Internet connections are slow and downloading large files takes a long time.

"It took me over four hours to download OpenOffice, a free version of Microsoft Office through their Web site," said computer science sophomore Nick Prescott, who resides in the Quadrangle. "If I had been able to download it through a torrent site, the download wouldn’t have taken more than one hour."

Peer-to-peer connections with outside networks are not allowed in the residence halls because they create a security problem, Hidalgo said.

"They open a path that somebody else could utilize for a security breach," he said.

These connections also use up a large amount of bandwidth and can be used for illegally exchanging copyrighted material, which would be very difficult for UH to control, Hidalgo said.

The basic package of U-verse, U100, will be included in every room and will include a digital video recorder box and wireless Internet router-features currently not available in the other residence halls, Hidalgo said.

"The difference (with) this service is that it’s all integrated and interactive," Feldstein said. "With U-verse, if you are at work or in class and you realize you forgot to record something, you can go on a Web site and program your DVR back at the dorm from your PC (or cell phone with Internet access). If you want that extra service, then you set up your own account with AT’T and pay the difference." said Feldstein.

AT’T will bring in their own equipment and support, so UH will not need to add extra staff, avoiding raised operating costs, said Randy Hotz, residential life and housing systems manager.

Hidalgo said all residence halls may need to be rewired, which could take several years.

"Before we provide this service to the other residence halls, (AT’T will) have to prove themselves first through good service and a fair price," said Hotz.

For any new contracts, the University would need the UH System Board of Regents’ approval and then have companies bid competitively to obtain a contract.

"Any expansion will go out for bidding again, and AT’T might not get the contract on that," said Murphy.

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