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December 14, 1997updated 01 Sep 2016 4:25pm

CORPORATES PLAN LARGEST UNIVERSITY NETWORK IN THE US

By CBR Staff Writer

As the US Courts were acting to curb Microsoft Corp’s PC operating system monopoly on Thursday, Redmond found itself embroiled in a lower profile, but still important row down at California State University. A pressure group called NetAction was co-ordinating protests last week against the University’s proposals to farm out its telecommunications and computer networks spanning 22 campuses to an outside commecial consortium including Microsoft Corp, GTE Corp, Fujitsu Ltd and Hughes Space and Communications Co. The Long Beach-based University says it can’t build the high-speed communications networks it wants without outside funding, and the four multinationals have proposed a $300m investment to provide such a system by the end of the decade. The four, calling themselves the California Education Technology Initiative, estimate that up to $3bn in revenues could be generated from the network over the next ten years, through selling computer and communications products and services to students, faculty, staff and members of the public. But academics and students are worried about the consequences of such a deal. California State University has over 320,000 students and is the largest higher education system in the US, and NetAction says that the Consortium will have a captive market for technology purchases by an estimated half million students, faculty and staff annually. Protesters also worry about how much control the University will have over the new system, and whether its ownership will influence academic decisions. The profit motive, they say, could result in changes in teaching practices to put more emphasis on the sale of distance learning programs. And students have expressed concern over the possibility that software purchasing will favor Microsoft. According to the San Jose Mercury News, a move to provide no support for Apple Macintosh systems was quashed only after objections from users. The CETI consortium won the contract back in September, after battling with a competive consortium led by Ericsson NV. But opposition is mounting, and hearings to discuss the scheme are scheduled for January 6 next year in the state Assembly. NetAction is urging interested parties to lobby the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee and Education Budget Committee before then.

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