GW pitches ISP deal with AOL

GW has big hopes for the future of interactive learning and the role of the internet in University life. With a new GW portal set to launch in December to give students one-stop-shopping for University resources, David Swartz, chief information officer for Information Systems and Services, said he is going one step further to bring GW the first-ever Internet Service Provider specialized for a university.

A customized ISP would allow students, staff and alumni to access GW resources anywhere in the world, Swartz said. While students can access most library resources and University services off campus using proxies, the ISP would allow direct connection.

We’re thinking big here, Swartz said.

Swartz said he is talking with America Online and other major ISP providers to design a program similar to the one AOL offers its users, only customized for GW students and staff.

A user of the GW ISP would enter the GW domain name – instead of an aol.com domain – to enter a portal site that offers news and services specialized for the GW community.

A new GW portal site that will group class registration, Prometheus, e-mail, personal account information, student group message boards and other services on one Web site is set to launch Dec. 21. Swartz said the GW ISP would be similar to the portal.

Francesco deLeo, manager of internet support for ISS, said GW has been talking with AOL for more than a year. AOL has hesitated to enter a deal with GW because the company is waiting to see how another partnership it established with a major U.S. company with its own specialized ISP works out, he said.

My goal is to get it cheap, and still provide additional resources, Swartz said.

Swartz said he is talking with companies to find the best deal that will deliver secure access from anywhere in the world at the cost of a local call, gwu.edu domain names and the most flexibility for specializing services for the GW community. AOL, Earthlink and AT&T all offer secure connections at low rates, Swartz said.

With Digital Subscriber Lines and cable modems quickly becoming the standard across the country, Swartz said a GW ISP could open options for broadband connections from a student’s house to the classroom. Using broadband, students could participate in a course taking place on GW’s campus from anywhere in the world in real time.

Swartz said he wants to use GW’s purchasing power to get a major internet provider to create a specialized University ISP – making GW the first university with the service.

He said he can deliver as many as 30,000 users, including students, faculty members and staff, to a company that signs with GW. That number could jump to as many as 120,000 if alumni are included in the deal, Swartz said.

Users would receive a discounted rate as low as half of the rates most ISPs charge, Swartz said.

Most AOL users pay about $22 a month, he said.

Because ISP providers would want the option of advertising on GW’s specialized ISP, Swartz said he is talking with companies to make sure GW would have control over the content, size and quantity of ads.

The less obtrusive the ad, the better, he said.

The concept of a unique ISP for higher education is not foreign to Swartz, who headed West Virginia University’s technology department before coming to GW. All students and staff in higher education in West Virginia are able to use an ISP that provides access to library and other university resources across the state, Swartz said.

GW ISS posted a survey on the GW Web site asking for input from students and staff about how often they use the internet, what ISP they use and when they are normally online. If GW users log on during off-peak hours of an ISP provider, GW users will be more valuable to internet companies, Swartz said.

He said he received 1,000 completed surveys before Thanksgiving break, but has not reviewed them yet.

While Swartz said he is still in the information-gathering stage, he said delivering a unique ISP to GW would be a nice Christmas gift for students and staff.

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