New Grad Dorm Will Not Have Analog Telephones

NW35, the new graduate residence that will be named Ashdown House when it opens this fall, will not have analog phone lines in the rooms. Residents who want room phones will need to purchase a voice over IP phone and Internet phone service.

But NW35 will have four network ports per pillow — at least twice as many as in the current Ashdown House.

The change reflects changing telephone usage patterns. Director of Housing Dennis J. Collins said that he believes most students today have cell phones for communicating with friends and family. To that end, NW35 will be “cell-phone friendly.” Housing is “putting in cell phone repeaters to ensure cell phones will work everywhere,” Collins said.

The MIT campus is increasingly moving towards voice over IP, said Steven R. Winig, manager of the Relationship Management Program at Information Services and Technology. VoIP is a technology that transports telephone calls digitally over a computer network. Traditional phone service operates on a separate analog network.

Collins said that the decision to provide extra network ports instead of an analog phone port “really was not about the money.” Rather, he said, Housing wanted to “build for the future.”

Collins said that the four network ports would provide access for two computers, a VoIP phone, and a possible future IP television service. Residents will be free to use the ports however they want, he said.

Rooms at NW35 will still have coaxial cable connections for standard MIT cable television service.

The rooms in the existing MIT dormitories, including the current Ashdown House, provide either one or two network ports per pillow.

They also have analog phone lines that can receive all incoming calls and can place outgoing calls to on campus phones as a standard service. Residents in these dormitories may order full phone service — including unlimited local calls, access to long distance services, and voice mail — for $17 per month.

Currently, about 8 percent of the graduate students in Ashdown House subscribe to the full phone service.

Housing, in conjunction with IS&T, the housemasters, and the house government at Ashdown, is currently compiling a list of recommended VoIP options for NW35 residents. According to Collins, the current plan is to provide the list to students when they move in.

Those options will likely come from outside providers, such as Vonage or AT&T, instead of from IS&T itself. “I think that there are better, more cost effective options out there” than IS&T, said Winig. Full analog phone service for dorm rooms is also provided by an outside company, PAETEC.

Residents interested in having a room phone will need to purchase both VoIP service and VoIP equipment. Traditional phones do not work on their own for VoIP.

NW35 will not be completely devoid of analog phone lines. Collins said that lounges and corridors will contain a limited number of analog phones that can place on-campus calls.