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Shared Infrastructure Technology Fee & Network Modernization F.A.Q.

This F.A.Q. explains the strategy behind the Shared Infrastructure Technology fee and answers frequently asked questions from the campus community. The annual $250 fee was approved in 2015 by the Board of Trustees to support the modernization of the campus network.

Why is network modernization a campus priority for students?

We listened to our students. You want better and faster technology. When Julie Buehler, Vice Chancellor for Information Services and Strategy, conducted a listening tour, she learned that students' educational and community aspirations were often limited by the current state of networking. This feedback was further supported by the receipt of over 3,000 network-related calls from undergraduates to our Help Desk during the fall 2014 semester alone. In addition, many other students with concerns did not call. The Vice Chancellor also received a student petition citing the need for network support of gaming.

We hear consistent reports that students highly value network services. At the same time, we are responding to unprecedented, rapid growth in the number of devices connecting to the campus network. Nationally, over 60% of students own three or more Internet-capable devices and this trend is likely to further increase in the coming years. On our campus: 

  • Network connections to the Internet have increased by more than 40% in the past year.
  • Between September 2015 and August 2016, the number of unique devices connecting to the campus wireless network has increased by 82% and network bandwidth by 50%.
  • Peak connection times on campus are 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. and between classes.
  • Network use spans a variety of locations, including classrooms, the library, the student union and event spaces, while network connectivity fulfills academic, social connectivity, and general communication needs.

What is the cost of network modernization?

The projected cost for completing 100% of the network is approximately $85 million. Over the next five years, the goal is to prioritize and fund 75% of the overall effort—approximately $64 million. From summer 2014 through July 2016, UMass Amherst already invested over $18 million in network updates.  

Is the project supported by multiple sources of funds?

Yes, funding plans include $30 million in central monies from the Chancellor; private gifts, including a recent $1.5 million gift from a vendor, and the $250 annual shared infrastructure technology fee, which will raise an estimated $5.1 million annually. The student fee amounts to about $30 per month. The Vice Chancellor continues to aggressively pursue multiple funding sources and welcomes student support in collaborating on this front.

Who is charged this fee?

The fee applies to all undergraduate students.

How do other universities address networking needs?

We researched how other campuses keep up with growing network needs. We found a large majority of our peers have a dedicated technology fee in place for all undergraduates, and many similar fees have existed for a decade. This chart (pdf, 163k) offers examples of what some other institutions do. 

Will the fee improve both wireless and wired services?

Yes, the fee is intended to support technology needs over time as campus needs continue to evolve. For the next five years, we expect to use the majority of the fee to support campus networking—both wired and wireless services, including infrastructure improvements to accommodate rapid growth. Improvements are being prioritized and address networking in classrooms and shared spaces. The fee also funds some classroom technology equipment updates and additional blue light emergency HELP phones.

What is eduroam?

eduroam is a collaboration that provides wireless Internet connections among thousands of research and educational institutions in over 70 countries and territories world-wide. UMass Amherst students, faculty, and staff can obtain encrypted wireless connections for their learning, teaching, research, and to stay in touch with family and friends.

eduroam is available at UMass Amherst and at participating institutions, including the Five Colleges and other UMass campuses. International students and those studying or traveling abroad can easily connect to wireless networks in locations from Paris to Nairobi without registering for a guest wireless account. Learn more about eduroam and how to connect with our eduroam Frequently Asked Questions.

What has already been accomplished on the network modernization project?

The latest changes include significant upgrades to wireless equipment in residence halls and many campus buildings in summer 2016 as well as ongoing major shared foundational infrastructure upgrades and individual building upgrades. For the latest progress, see the Campus Network Updates page.

During 2014-2015, a full campus-wide network assessment was done using third-party experts, campus, and other network expertise. The result was a detailed analysis and a map of campus, highlighting the need for some building upgrades and recognition that the core network needs to updating. A network modernization plan was developed. The Network Modernization Project is the implementation of this plan, a multi-year strategic initiative, and a top priority for UMass Amherst IT for fiscal year 2017.

Is the Residential Technology Fee continuing?

Yes, it is continuing. The existing UMass charge for residential students covers basic technology support in campus residences. Similar costs exist at other universities. While UMass itemizes this as a charge on bills ($252 annually), other universities often build it into basic housing expenses. This charge supports limited residence phone, and wired and wireless services, including debt payments for residence infrastructure.

The Residential Technology Fee meets a different need than the new technology fee. The new fee is being primarily used for shared campus-wide wired and wireless networking (including networking support of areas such as classrooms, Library and the Student Union). A mandatory IT fee for students is common at universities across the country to fund services shared by students. The Shared Infrastructure Technology Fee provides necessary resources to ensure that our campus computing network keeps pace with rapidly increasing student demand for access and speed, and to fight the increasing threat of cyber attacks.

Is the new fee included in the calculation of financial aid?

The new fee has been incorporated into the Financial Aid’s calculation of the Cost of Attendance, as approved by the Board of Trustees. The Cost of Attendance is used to determine financial aid. Need-based aid offsets some of the new fee for some entering first-year and transfer students, depending on their Expected Family Contribution. For a returning student, if the Expected Family Contribution does not change, the student’s financial aid award remains the same.

How have students been engaged in this process?

The Vice Chancellor and her team have been sharing information on this topic since January 2015, by meeting with a variety of student leaders as well as the student press. See the list of student consultations for more information. We have been responding to questions on this topic, and regularly updating this FAQ page for the community. The Vice Chancellor continues to work with students to listen to their ideas on prioritization and any other feedback as needs continue to evolve. A new IT Student Advisory Group has been formed for ongoing advisement. Please contact kim.roy@umass.edu for more information or to join.

How can I submit further questions or comments?

Questions and comments can be submitted on our feedback page or at student-feedback@umass.edu. We continue to welcome suggestions.