The Yale College Council’s proposal for a University-wide cell phone plan is inching its way toward implementation with an upcoming student survey designed to measure interest.
University officials said they need figures that reflect genuine interest in a student cell phone plan before they attempt to match the $25-per-month unlimited-minutes program already offered to employees. YCC officers said they plan to collect data via surveys that will be available on YaleStation early next week following a meeting with officials in Yale’s procurement and information and technology services departments, YCC Vice President Chance Carlisle ’05 said.
ITS network services director Joe Paolillo said the University is ready to bargain with telecommunications companies on behalf of students but is relying on the YCC for customer projections and a list of specific desired features.
“We’re drafting up a basic survey that includes all of our concerns, and we’ll try to match it to the concerns of the YCC when we meet with them,” Paolillo said. “We have a good idea of what the issues are with phones, but we want to know what the issues are for students.”
Although council members announced the proposal in November, the survey’s release has been delayed because of YCC elections and other projects, Carlisle said. But he said the student cell phone plan is now on a short list of projects that will receive the council’s full attention.
Though the details of the YCC survey draft will not be finalized until this afternoon, Carlisle said the council’s two major concerns were whether the plan should last for nine months or extend through the summer and whether or not the University should offer an unlimited plan.
Carlisle said the plan is targeted at international students, who often have problems obtaining cell phones in the United States due to a lack of credit history, and incoming freshmen, who may be buying a cell phone for the first time.
“I came here freshman year with a phone plan that cost $69.99 a month, because I had a 901 area code,” Carlisle said. “A local phone is a much cheaper alternative. Obviously, the University probably can’t compete with a rate like 10 bucks a month, but it can do better than a lot of plans out there, and with international students, we might have an extra market we can help.”
But Patrick, a Verizon Wireless sales representative who asked that his last name not be printed, said international students remain at a distinct disadvantage, and a target audience with little or no credit history could be problematic in negotiations with telecom companies.
“What they usually do is offer anything from a 13- to 20-percent discount as long as they can show identification proving that they’re a student, but by the same token, there’s no proof that a college kid who’s an ocean away half the time is going to pay their bills as often as a kid from America,” he said.
Despite the survey delays, Carlisle said he is confident that with sufficient student response, the program will be ready by the fall.
“Sure we could’ve done this a couple weeks ago, but the survey would’ve turned out poor, and the data wouldn’t have been good,” Carlisle said. “I think it’s a substantial problem, and I do think there’s a need. It’s not the easiest thing to implement, but … I have confidence in our procurement department.”
Vanderbilt University and other higher education institutions have already negotiated campus-wide student cell phone plans, but there is more than one way for the University to approach such a deal, Sprint PCS spokesman Marcos Carcamo said. The phone company could offer a retail agreement, where Yale would become an authorized cell phone dealer, or the University could buy the services in bulk and resell them to students at its own wholesale price, handling customer service and billing internally.
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