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University Introduces New Telephone System

By Jeffrey C. Wu

In an effort to cut costs and improve phone service, the University has launched its own phone company.

The new Harvard University Network will bring down local and long distance fees because it allows the University to negotiate rates as one very large customer.

The system also will include a number of previously unavailable features:

.students may now order "voice mail," a sophisticated electronic message system that enables callers to send and leave messages for individuals or lists of other subscribers to voice mail.

.each student will receive an individual account, complete with password, on which to charge telephone calls from any University phone. Customers can check on the amount charged to their account at any time.

.students will continue to have access to functions such as call waiting, three way calling and speed dialing, all at charges slightly lower than New England Telephone's usual.

The Network took bids from the major long distance companies, and contracted with MCI after the company agreed to service Harvard at 95 percent of its normal rates.

MCI is also billing international calls at 95 percent although Harvard is still trying to negotiate down the rates to frequently called countries such as France and Japan, said Nancy M. Kinchla, who is coordinating the transition between the old Centrex system and the new one.

"We certainly project that the volume increase will send the cost of these calls down," she said. "I think we're going to do a lot better than that [95 percent of the MCI rate]."

But Harvard's new network will also bring a few unwelcome changes.

Because the new system bills long distance calls to individual passwords, collect calls are difficult to handle and bill. A $10 fee will be charged to the line for every collect call students accept, according to the user's guide.

All accounts will receive only a $100 line of credit. That means that a student might have to pay part of a bill midway through the month if the limit is exceeded or risk having long distance service severed.

"We really can't afford to take the losses," Kinchla said. "We don't want to find ourselves with uncollectables." Students will be able to leave deposits with the Harvard's telephone office to increase their lines of credit.

Harvard's centralized system "is not terribly new," Kinchla noted. "There are lots of places that have been doing it for a long time. Yale's been doing it for quite a long time."

But she pointed out that the network offers greater flexibility than most other university systems.

"Most colleges don't give students the choice we do. You don't get a choice of features." She added that some universities only offered a $30 credit limit, which could not be increased through deposits.

Harvard's network will also have the potential for high speed data transmission. Future improvements could include access to computer systems such as HOLLIS from personal computers, without tying up the regular phone lines.

"There's been some speculation of installing laser printers [which would be accessible from students' rooms] in the dorms," Kinchla said. "There's a lot of potential there."

This article is reprinted from Monday's Crimson.

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