Iowa governor vetoes student Internet access bill


Off-campus users keep free access rights to university computers





IOWA— Pressure from students and faculty at the University of Iowa has finally helped halt a state bill that would have forced students and faculty living off-campus to pay the equivalent of a commercial rate for Internet use.

Students currently receive free access to the university’s Internet system through a state-subsidized network.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed Senate file 519, originally introduced as a way to open the Internet server market to other private companies. But Branstad said it should not come at the expense of students.

“[The bill] would require our higher education institutions to dramatically change the educational services offered to the students or face significant additional financial burdens,” Branstad wrote in his veto message.

“My personal feeling is that [the current practice] was unfair competition,” said Sen. John Jensen, who supported the bill.

Jensen said he did not believe students should receive free access when no one else does. With free access available via the university network from their home computer, and the school paying very little for access from a private company, Jensen said the private phone companies that provide Internet access cannot compete. But university officials said making students pay for the service was out of the question.

“That would be like telling the students off campus that they can’t use the library,” said Steve Parrott, assistant director of University Relations for University of Iowa. “We encouraged the governor to veto the bill.

“Although we have over 30 Instructional Technology Centers where students can use computers for free, that is not enough to accommodate all our students.”

Parrott added that if students off campus had to use private Internet providers, many university services would not be available to them. Some information is licensed only to university-related networks.

University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman had proposed to pay the additional costs necessary for off-campus access for students if the bill passed. Parrott speculated that, although the bill was vetoed, the issue will come up again.

“The phone companies felt very strongly the other way,” Parrott said.


Fall 1997, reports