Uni tames surging Internet costs: Most of the problems were political

Spiralling Internet costs drove a North Queensland university to search for a customer management and billing solution for its staff and students.

Kent Adams, director information technology and resources at James Cook University (JCU), said he knew JCU needed to implement a more effective way of managing Internet usage when the cost of providing free Internet access to staff and students jumped from $130,000 in 1997, $250,000 (1998) to nearly $400,000 last year,"We found that the 90/10 rule applied; 10 per cent of clients were using 90 per cent of the resource ... students and staff are now allocated sufficient quota and then pay for additional use," Adams said.

JCU, which claims to be Australia's largest regional university and has campuses in Cairns, Townsville and Mackay, implemented Portal's Infranet customer management and billing software at the beginning of the year to manage exponential growth of noncore business Internet usage, specifically downloading music and images.

"The Infranet system enables us to track all incoming traffic through the Web proxy server and firewall, attributing usage to individual students and staff. At the beginning of the year, each person is allocated a free quota that is sufficient to meet their needs for work or study-related access."

Usage for 2000 has been capped at $250,000 and Adams said after six months of the new system in place, it looked like "they were going to manage this", as well as cover all costs including hardware, software and implementation from Portal.

Quota allocations for staff and students were based on historical usage, investigations into what other universities were doing about this problem, and what allocations they were providing for Internet usage.

Adams said most of problems they encountered during implementation were political. "From a technical point of view it went in really quite well, without hitches at all."

"Queensland University of Technology has had a home grown system in place for some time and we looked at using this instead of the commercial one. But to build one internally was probably still going to be extremely expensive; we'd need staff to do it and it would probably take longer to do it, come up to speed and implement it," Adams said.

Ryan Haddrick, JCU student association president, agrees that the new system was necessary, saying it gave every student reasonable access to the Internet for academic purposes.

He said the Internet is a prime source of information for the northern Queensland university. "People must use the Internet to access material and online journal articles from down south; so it actually forms part of our primary library information base."

Haddrick and Adams both agree that there was some negative feedback before the system was implemented. "People were concerned about not having access for academic purposes, but I think a lot of those problems have panned out over time," Haddrick said.

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