Phone problems annoy residents

Students living in Aston Hall say they are annoyed by charges to their phone bills for local and long distance phone calls.

Our phone, for whatever reason, charges us for calls to the places like the Columbian School (office) and the (GW) Bookstore, said Brian Chase, a junior who lives in the Aston. (We were told) that if it’s the 202 area code, it wouldn’t show up on our phone bill.

Local calls within the city and area suburbs made from the Aston are supposed to be free, said Jennifer Bevacqua de la Concepcion, associate director of Communications for Information Systems and Services.

Asif A. Sheh, property manager of the Aston, said residents who are charged for local calls can go to the Aston’s office and their money will be refunded.

Some calls to Virginia and Maryland are considered local, he said. (The students) can check with Bell Atlantic to see which calls are local and which are long distance.

Other students said they have problems with long distance service, charges for on-campus calls, privacy issues and voicemail.

Unlike other residence halls, the Aston’s phone system is operated by Verizon Communications. Other on-campus residence halls are connected through AT&T’s College and University Solutions. Through ACUS students are not charged for on-campus calls, but are charged nine cents for off-campus, local calls.

The Aston’s service is different because the building is not operated by GW, but by Potomac Hospitality, a private building management company.

Junior Corinne Kopcik, who lives in the Aston, also expressed frustration about the cost of her long distance service.

It’s way higher, she said. I lived in Fulbright (Hall) last year and my bill was much lower, even though I called more.

Students said they are also upset by what they say are inflexible billing systems.

Roommates in the Aston share the same phone line, and do not receive separate bills, unlike residents of other residence halls.

It’s hard to divide the bill, to figure out who called where, Kopcik said. There is no indication of where the call was placed to, just the number, so we have to look up area codes. If it’s not a number you call often, it’s hard to recognize who placed the call.

Smith said he uses his cell phone rather than the phone in his Aston room because of confusion over the phone bills.

The bill doesn’t detail the time of day, the duration of the call, the city, person or anything like that, he said. I think it’s wrong, it should be much more specific. If you have an irrational roommate it can be difficult to divide the bills.

Smith also said phone security is a problem, because students do not have to enter a personal identification number to place a call, like students do in other residence halls.

There is really no security, he said. Anyone could pick up the phone and start dialing.

Phone problems are nothing new to Aston residents.

Last year – the first year GW students lived in the Aston as part of GW’s residence hall system – students complained when they were unable to make calls because all of the building’s circuits were busy or full. The University added new circuits to free up the lines. Students also complained about high and erratic phone bills.

Some Aston residents also express frustration about their voicemail system.

The main problem I have is that the phone rings twice and goes right to voicemail, Chase said. I’ve talked to management and they say they can’t do anything about it. My on-campus friends say that they hear 4 or 5 rings, but I only hear two or three before the voicemail picks up.

The phone problems are not only affecting students who live in the Aston. Students living in other residence halls said they are upset that they are charged for on-campus calls to the Aston and the Dakota, an apartment building run by GW that is part of the residence hall system.

Phone numbers in both the Aston and the Dakota do not start with 242 or 994 extensions like all other residence halls. Calls to those two buildings are considered off-campus calls, costing students on campus nine cents to dial the buildings.

Junior Alexander Pavone said he is frustrated by the charges to the residence halls.

My girlfriend lives at the Aston, and I call her often, he said. I was dismayed when I received my phone bill.

John Dexter Cole, a junior who lives in the Dakota, said he agrees.

I have a girlfriend and it bothers me that she has to pay a fee every time she calls me, Cole said.

Dakota residents can dial 8 to connect to the campus phone system and dial 9 for free local calls.

Bevacqua de la Concepcion said the University is considering integrating the Dakota and Aston into the campus phone system, but she is not sure when it will happen.

It’s being looked at, but I don’t know the timeline, she said.

Alexa Kim, director of Technology Communication for Student and Academic Support Services, said she was unaware of any plans to change phone service in either residence hall.

Not to my knowledge will they be upgraded, Kim said. She said she did not see any reason to change.

In terms of viability, the system is functioning, she said. It’s there, it’s giving phone service.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.