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Last week, the Harvard Student Telephone Office (HSTO) announced that it had renegotiated their phone rates with MCI, the University's provider. The HSTO said that the new plan would save $350,000 a year. We hope the savings will show up in as many pocketbooks as possible.
Harvard's phone service is overdue for this reduction of rates. However, this development hardly warms our hearts. As a monopoly, Harvard blocks students from the competitive long-distance market, where we could probably halve our phone bills and we should at least be able to try. A significant number of students already use calling cards rather than Harvard long-distance to phone home. Until we can choose our own providers, we hope this recent rate reduction is only the first of a number of changes to improve the phone service to Harvard's students.
The HSTO said it has not yet decided how to divide up the savings so we can offer our suggestions. First, think of the constituency when adjusting the rates: students are less likely to make long-distance calls during the work day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). We are at our jobs, taking classes and hardly in our rooms at all (unless of course we are asleep). Students call in the evening (5 p.m. to 11 p.m.) and the night (11 p.m. to 9 a.m.), and so apply all of the savings to those time blocks and pass the savings on to our phone calls where it counts.
In the long run, Harvard students should at least get the same 9 cent-a-minute rate after 5 p.m. that MIT students receive. In addition, Harvard should give its students a flat rate across the country, like most long-distance carriers, and do away with the current system where distance as well as time of day go into calculating the price. As well as simplifying the rate schedule, it would be a step into the modern age; Harvard is a national university, not a regional one, and should structure its prices accordingly.
While we are on the subject of savings and the HSTO, we'd like to make another suggestion: let us send our phone bills via University Mail, saving students about $2,000 in postage each month.
The monopoly of the Harvard Student Telephone Office remains an unfortunate reality of residential life. We accept this recent rate reduction with reluctant gratitude and hope that the savings are appropriately distributed.
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