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UConnect to offer reduced-rate cable TV
September 28, 1998

UConnect, which for nearly 10 years has served as the University's telephone company, is preparing to enter the cable television business.

Building on the campus's nearly completed network of fiber optic cable, officials for several months have been negotiating with Charter Communications to forge a pact that would allow Charter to provide a television signal to the University, which would then provide the service to students, much as telecommunications now does for telephone service. The change would allow the University to offer cable television at a significant discount to students.

A pilot program has already begun operating in South Campus. Students living in the new residence halls - which are not included in a 1988 cable television contract signed with Charter's predecessors, Telemedia of Northeastern Connecticut - may receive extended basic cable TV for slightly less than $20 per month, far less than the nearly $35 rate paid by other students. At least partially because of the discounted rate, more than 80 percent of the 226 rooms in South Campus receive cable. The number is only about 35 percent for the rest of campus.

UConnect can offer the lower rate because the University, not an outside provider, maintains the phone lines and equipment used to operate the service. The University pays a bulk rate to Charter in return for a satellite signal.

Since 1988, about 100 classrooms have received free cable service from the local provider. With UConn as the primary provider, that number would expand. Currently, all students with televisions can receive a variety of academic channels, including SCOLA, which features international television programming; UCTV, a student-run and operated television station; the Department of Residential Life movie channel, which runs recent releases; and Cable Channel 14, a local access network.

UConn's Cable Television Advisory Committee hopes to negotiate a contract that will allow them to charge students a basic rate just high enough to cover costs. The Department of Residential Life, meanwhile, on Wednesday is sponsoring a student referendum to offer a complete package of electronic services, including cable television, telephone and an Internet connection, for a fee of $125 per semester, offering savings of between $70 and $170 per semester, according to residential life officials.

Richard Veilleux