Changes to Cable Service In TLAs

Collin Schopp

As returning upperclassmen living in Augustana’s Transitional Living Areas settled back into campus, many of them noticed a change to the cable service provided in the houses.
As of this year, each TLA house has only one working cable plug-in in the living room of the residences, leaving the ones in the bedrooms inactive.
Though this may have come as a surprise to some of the returning students, the Office of Residential Life put out a statement concerning the issue through e-mail, an e-mail that may have gotten buried beyond a student’s notice in a cluttered pre-term inbox.
The e-mail clarified: “Due to changes in the service over the summer, we are not able to offer outlets in each bedroom. As we reviewed what other colleges offer their students, we found that many colleges are moving away from cable as other forms of technology become more popular.”
Chris Beyer, Director of Residential Life, offered some further clarification. The review of what other colleges offer their students that is referred to in the e-mail is a recent report from The Association for College and University Technology Advancement and the Association of College and University Housing Officers. This “State of Resnet” reports that cable use in college residences across the country is becoming obsolete, going the way of the VCR. Many students prefer to use Netflix streaming, or the account of a close friend willing to share, in place of cable.
Augustana’s cable service is based on a contract with Mediacom, a cable and internet provider. According to Beyer, this contract had a clause that allowed the college’s cable arrangement to continue on a year-to-year basis. This year, the contract was exhausted and a new one had to be negotiated.
“The previous contract was pretty favorable. We enjoyed a nice bulk rate for the institution and that’s something they weren’t offering us anymore. This time around we had to count every single cable outlet on campus and there was a fee per outlet. By the end of it, to maintain the same level of service we had would have cost an additional $30,000 a year.” Beyer said.
The combination of this price hike and the downturn in cable use made the best choice for the campus to be a slight downsizing of the cable services offered. This isn’t just a downsize that keeps extra costs off of students though, as Beyer puts it: “We’re confronted with [whether] we dedicate resources to a fading technology or do we dedicate resources towards new technology.”
Possibilities in the coming years include the reallocation of resources that had previously been put towards the cable service to projects like improved wireless, the means to facilitate “new technology”. Mediacom’s price hike gives the impression that cable companies are also feeling the decline of cable use as former customers turn to streaming services.
As of now, Augustana is still working to be able to provide the option to the students who take advantage of it. Beyer reminds that: “We know that students still use cable, so we’re not ready to do away with it.”