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  November 13, 2000

Cable Company's Suit Dismissed

A state Superior Court judge last week dismissed a lawsuit filed against UConn by Charter Communications that sought to stop the University from including cable television, using its own delivery system, as part of a voice, video and data network for students living in campus residence halls. UConn officials consider the system an integral part of the University's academic programs.

Charter Communications, the St. Louis-based firm that holds the cable franchise for northeastern Connecticut, claimed in the litigation that it holds the exclusive, state-authorized franchise for the 16-town region that includes the Storrs campus. But Judge Thomas Bishop ruled Nov. 2 that UConn was not providing cable service to the general public, nor did it violate Charter's rights by providing video services on campus.

"This decision is a solid victory, strongly affirming UConn's right to deliver its own video system on its campus to enhance the education of its students. I am pleased that the judge adopted the position I advocated in my argument in court, namely that Charter Communications is a private cable franchise with absolutely no right to exploit University property or compel access to the campus," said state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal after the verdict was announced.

"As Judge Bishop correctly ruled, this case was not about the cable business so much as the use of a voice, video and data system by the University for its proper educational mission. The judge ruled that the UConn system is distinguishable from general cable service because it is provided only to students living on campus, not to the general public," he added.

The system, switched on in January, brings voice, video, and data services to every room in the University's residence halls. Students pay a technology fee of $125 per semester for the services, far less than the estimated $150-$225 per semester students incurred when they contracted for their own telephone, television, and Internet services, officials said.

The integrated campus network also is incorporated into all UConn 2000 building projects, with the satellite master antenna television system (SMATV) giving students access to videos used in classes, replays of specific lectures, class notes and assignments, a campus bulletin board, course registration information and other key items.

The system also gives students access to e-mail, touchtone telephone service, voice mail, the University's main server and the University telephone system. The satellite television programming brings students a choice of 75 channels, including educational and international programming, 13 broadcast stations and 20 entertainment stations.

"What's important for the University of Connecticut is our digital future. Higher education is an information industry, and the University is being driven by, and is driving, the digital revolution," said Paul Kobulnicky, vice chancellor for information services, earlier this year. "UConn's goal is to be among the top public universities in the nation and, to do that, we must deliver top-flight instructional services, using the most up-to-date technology possible, at the lowest possible cost to our students."

Richard Veilleux