NIU: Sold on cell phones?

By Evan Thorne

With the advance of cellular phone technology, students may find it easier to make calls from cell phones than from residence hall phones.

This trend is true particularly in long-distance calls, which are covered frequently under “nationwide minutes” in cell phone plans.

Liz Evans, a freshman English major and Grant Towers resident, uses her landline rarely, relying primarily on her cell phone.

“Sometimes I’ll use my dorm phone to call other rooms, because that’s free,” Evans said. “But on my cell phone, I have free nights and weekends.”

Both Evans and sophomore English major Sally Zahnle have been using the Verizon Family Share plan with families at home and have been satisfied with the plan.

“You really don’t miss any calls,” said Zahnle. “If someone has to contact you, it’s right there.”

Zahnle, who lives in the basement of a house on Augusta Avenue, said she usually gets good service. The cell phone also eliminates the need for a house phone.

“Basically it’s one less bill at the end of the month,” Zahnle said.

Impact on residence halls?

Landlines in residence halls could become a thing of the past.

Residence hall and office phones provide a number of convenience and security features cell phones do not provide, including caller ID from NIU’s 752/753 numbers, effective E-911 service, free extension-to-extension calling and a number of other services, said Elizabeth Leake, associate director of information technology services.

There have been discussions, however, about the possibility of providing wireless phones for residents to replace landline phones that currently come with the room and board package.

“ITS and NIUTEL are always looking for ways to improve service to our customers,” Leake said. “We are currently investigating WIFI and Voice Over IP options that would enable mobile voice communications on the campus network. Further, we hope to find an affordable solution that will also allow users to travel seamlessly from our local WIFI network to a commercial cellular carrier. We anticipate this will be possible in the future, but we aren’t there yet.”

Concerns over viability

Other concerns regarding cell phones versus stationary phones include theft, loss and inventory recovery.

“Few cellular phones that are returned once the contract expires are usable,” Leake said. “Traditional telephones live longer and less perilous lives.”

Students agree cell phones, while convenient, would just bring more problems than they are worth at this point.

“People would steal them,” said freshman history major Nicole Lamphere. “It’s a good idea in theory, but I don’t think it will pan out the way they think it will.”

Senior kinesiology major Dianna Havrilla does not think cell phones are necessary at all.

“The dorm phone is like a house phone. It’s what you use to get in touch with people you know are also in their dorms,” Havrilla said.

While not in the immediate future, cell phones could potentially become an official staple of campus life, not just a convenience. But before that can happen, a number of concerns must be attended to.

“ITS understands the desire and need for portable communications,” Leake said. “We will continue to investigate the most effective and affordable options.”