Bonum Certa Men Certa

Peter Eckersley, Laura Smyth & the rushed closure of dial-up Internet in Australian universities

posted by Roy Schestowitz on May 20, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock.

On 27 October 1998, one of Melbourne's leading newspapers featured a report about the demise of dial-up Internet for Australian university students.

Today, nobody misses the snail-like performance of their dial-up connection. Nonetheless, the events of that era are fascinating for a number of reasons.

The newspaper has chosen to publish a photo of Danny Michell, Laura Smyth and I together.

Peter Eckersley is quoted in the same article. Peter's death was a great tragedy for our industry and for humankind.

Fergus Vial and Michael Crozier are quoted in the article too.

At the time this article was printed, DSL broadband internet was not widely available in Australia. The dial-up services from the universities offered untimed Internet access for students in computer science, software engineering and some related departments like physics. The commercial ISPs were offering a timed dial-up service. The change from an untimed service to a time-limited service required students to think more carefully about planning their online time.

Within two or three years, the DSL broadband services were widely available. While we had to pay for this, DSL offers an untimed, always-on experience.

Therefore, a real concern that is not emphasized in this article is the poor manner in which the transition period was handled. The universities were eliminating their dial-in services a couple of years before any serious untimed DSL service became available. Another interesting piece of trivia is that Australia has untimed local telephone calls. Therefore, students would simply pay a flat-fee of twenty-five cents to dial the university and then stay online as long as possible.

The other key thing to note from this article is that it discusses the concerns about misuse or abuse of services provided to students. This discussion was taking place in the press at exactly the same time that Shaya Potter of Debian was using dial-up servers and Debian-owned servers for the purposes of download and sharing copies of computer games that had been obtained without respect for their software licenses.

Danny Michell, Laura Smyth, Daniel Pocock

Students count the cost of Net reforms

The Age, Tuesday 27 October 1998

At Monash University, free dial-in access to the Web was withdrawn this year and replaced with a choice of commercial providers, including OzEmail.

The preferred providers are usually the only way to get access to the university networks from outside but Monash uses a password system.

Dial-in access to Monash's internal network is free.

OzEmail now describes the student market as "potentially huge", with half a million cut-price customers.

Although after one year it has only 3000 customers at seven universities, including UTS in Sydney, the ISP expects a boom next year as more universities move to commercial provision for student access.

Why, just as the Web takes off, are these new restrictions coming in?

One reason is money. Megabytes cost, and extra students online multiplied by the increased size of files being sought has sent costs through the roof.

At Melbourne University alone, the cost of Internet traffic jumped from about $170,000 in 1996 to $530,000 in 1997.

This year, the forecast is for more than $900,000.

At Monash, the cost is about $1 million a year.

Universities link into the Internet via AARNET (the Australian Academic and Research Network), an asynchronous transfer mode-based national network that also connects CSIRO and three other research organizations. AARNET's traffic rates are also sky-rocketing.

Web forms are already in use in the engineering faculty, where some students have had accounts suspending and had to provide written explanations before they regain Internet access.

The University of Melbourne technology action group spokesman, Daniel Pocock, said that collectively, the moves were symptomatic of changes in academia generally.

Where universities once existed as key community contributors, he said students now feared that their main aims were financial.

Abuses occured, but generally students not abuse their limited resources, he said.

In an article to be published in the student newspaper Farrago this week, two student representatives on university technology policy committees, Peter Eckersley and Michael Crozier, attack the planned changes.

They say the university is "going overboard" in spending on things such as multimedia projects while student IT needs are not adequately supported.

Vice-chancellor in charge of IT at Melbourne, Iain Morrison said that equity was always a consideration in IT decisions, and that students would always have "at least one access opportunity".

At Monash, students hope a current review of Internet access will at least reverse the trend that started when they were funnelled off to commercial ISPs at the start of this year.

Student welfare officer, Fergus Vial, who works at Monash's student union, said students formed action groups and held meetings at the start of this year when they discovered dial-in access had been withdrawn, but "at the end of the day, people felt that the battle had already been lost".

"In a university environment, students are basically powerless."

Dial-in access is a privilege that some students have never had, but those who did resent having to switch to commercial ISPs, again citing equity issues. AARNET general manager George McLaughlin said that when AARNET left Telstra and took a feed from Optus in 1997, part of the agreement was that universities would not act commercially.

He did not believe that had caused the trend to commercial provision.

But the National Union of Students said what the big institutions were doing to save money and restrict use, smaller and regional ones would soon copy.

NUS welfare officer for Victoria, Danny Michell, called it a "dangerous trend", and said it would be an important subject at this year's NUS national conference.

For companies such as OzEmail and Connect.com, students paying for Web access represent a huge commercial opportunity - even at OzEmail's cheapest student rate of 43 cents an hour.

But for students, it is "taxing people for using a library", Michell says.

Other Recent Techrights' Posts

In Malawi, Windows Down to 10%, GNU/Linux Growing
it's not a small country
[Meme] Featuritis
Newer is not always better
 
"Planets" Cannot Replace Social Control Media, They're Very Much Akin to It (Censorship Hubs, Gatekeepers)
Don't be subjected to gaslighting; make your own OPML file
Topics That Truly Irritate and Consistently Infuriate the Microsofters (Whenever We Cover These)
Censoring uncomfortable information is a difficult activity that has its limits, even in Reddit
Honduras: Vista 11 Down, GNU/Linux Up
Valve sees GNU/Linux as bigger than Apple's MacOS
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Thursday, June 13, 2024
IRC logs for Thursday, June 13, 2024
LibrePlanet 2024 and the Lost Video/Audio of Talks
After the event was over someone informed us that due to technical issues they had lost (or failed to acquire) recordings of the talks
Choosing Between Options to Outsource to Evades the Best Solution (Self-Hosting)
Most users don't need this sort of complexity
IBM Layoffs at Kyndryl
This can soon spill over to Red Hat
Turkmenistan: GNU/Linux Leaps Past 5% This Month?
This is how statCounter sees it
Watch This Space
what matters most is not the volume or quantity of publications but their underlying depth and quality
Short Downtimes, Planned Maintenance
Hypervisor maintenance is planned
Links 13/06/2024: Ongoing Sharp Increases in Deaths, Mediterranean Diet Linked to 23% Lower Risk of Death in Women
Links for the day
Gemini Links 13/06/2024: Linuxing of the Dell Laptop and Deep Dive into the World of the OpenEarth Foundation
Links for the day
New Highs for Android in Haiti (Nearly 80%), Microsoft Windows at Only 4%
that's Android at another new high and very close to 80% (it now seems inevitable)
[Meme] How Stefano Maffulli (and Microsoft's Own OSI Insiders) Make Money
Milking what's left of the OSI by attacking its very mission - something that more people now recognise
Mobs Don't Get the Job Done (Mob Leaders Have Lost Credibility/Visibility, Job, or Both)
their demands weren't met
Montenegro: GNU/Linux "Proper" at Over 6%
Windows is down to record lows
Links 13/06/2024: Overpopulation Woes, Best Buy Lays Off More Employees
Links for the day
Nationwide Eventually Did Listen
Miles better than their original nonresponse
The Corruption of Open Source Initiative (OSI), a Front Group of Microsoft and GAFAM, Openwashing Proprietary Things and Even Plagiarism, GPL Violations
Stefano Maffulli (and Microsoft's staff that works with him) basically profits from anti-FOSS
"AI" Tech Bubble
How much "hype quotient" does this whole "hey hi" (AI) thing have left in it?
Links 13/06/2024: Science, Politics, and Gemini
Links for the day
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, June 12, 2024
IRC logs for Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Gemini Links 12/06/2024: The Rodent Revolution and Adding Twisty Puzzles
Links for the day
Links 12/06/2024: Ukraine War Updates and Many Patents Being Subjected to Squashing Bounties
Links for the day
Ireland Last to Report Election Results
Daniel Pocock's involvement in Australian politics goes back to his university days
Never Sleeps, Never Slumbers
We're going to try to improve not just in quantity but also in quality
[Meme] The Purpose of Life is to Find a Desk
dogs have desks
EPO Has Gotten So Bad That Workers Need to Ask to be Allocated a Desk (at Work)
Wow!!!! An “allocated workplace”!!
Tux Machines Parties Going Well Do Far
Cross-posted from Tux Machines
In Many Countries, Both Large and Small, Vista 11 is Losing Market Share (Despite New PCs Coming Preloaded With It)
One need not even consider large nations in isolation
By "Going Public" the Raspberry Pi Ensures It'll No Longer Serve the Public
It'll be owned and controlled by whatever people wish to control it
Dave Wreski Also Plays the Bot Game (Chatbot) at LinuxSecurity to Fake 'Articles' About "Linux"
How much longer can they fool search engines (SEO) and readers?
[Meme] Indisputable Success
MICROSOFT buys shares of MICROSOFT
Links 12/06/2024: 'Hey Hi' (AI) Bubble Imploding Already, Danish Media Threatens to Sue OpenAI
Links for the day
Links 11/06/2024: Floods in Germany and Brazil, Political Violence
Links for the day
Gemini Links 12/06/2024: Sketching Plants, OpenBSD Pubnix
Links for the day
"2025 the year of Linux on the Desktop"
Charlie Stross quote
In Bahrain, Historically Low on GNU/Linux Adoption, Things Change for the Better
They have some people who understand Free software
Daniel Pocock Received Twice as Many Votes as Andreas Tille (Debian Project Leader After 2024 Election)
From the media yesterday...
Debian is Built by Hundreds of Volunteers and 524 Irish People Voted for Daniel Pocock
524 in that area went to the polling station to vote Daniel Pocock (Ind)
[Meme] RMS is 'Too Old', Says Company Run by a Person 5 Years His Junior (Ginni Rometty) and 10 Years His Junior (Arvind Krishna)
Never again?
[Meme] Women in Computer Science
Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace etc.
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, June 11, 2024
IRC logs for Tuesday, June 11, 2024
Togo: GNU/Linux Growing Fast This Year, Now Measured at 6%
Sending Bill Gates with a suitcase to bribe African officials isn't enough anymore
Free Software Projects Need to Chase Away Men Who Attack Women Rather Than The Women Who Complain
A just society holds people accountable rather than covers up such blunders
Improving the Image of Women in Free Software by Hiring and Promoting the Proficient Ones
Million's shaman background isn't the problem, or even the superstitious ghost-chasing. The problem is that she has absolutely no background in Free software.
They Say Cash is King
People who value their freedom will pay with cash any time they can
'Team Microsoft' Wants to Leverage Our Popularity as a Weapon Against Us
In the past 2 days we published 64 articles and served over a million HTTP/S requests