It seems college students find the idea of paying to use the internet absolutely absurd.

Carl Straumsheim at Inside Higher Ed has the story:

U. of Texas at Austin announces, then delays, plans to charge for Internet access

While most of academe rages against the Federal Communication Commission’s plans to divide the Internet into fast and slow lanes, some universities are already throttling traffic to websites they deem less informational than others and charging users for access based on their rank.

It may seem like a contradiction — arguing for a free and open internet across the country while limiting access on campus — but these seemingly conflicting stances on “net neutrality” highlight the economic realities of running a campuswide network. As faculty, staff members and students continue to demand faster speeds and improved networking infrastructure, many campus IT offices are finding their budgets can’t address the demand.

Last Wednesday, the University of Texas at Austin announced it would make some students pay to access its network, even though part of what students pay for in tuition is used to fund IT infrastructure.

The university has created its own fast and slow lanes, splitting its network into two classes of service. At the beginning of each week, residential students, faculty members and staff all have access to the “first-class network,” but once they exceed their weekly bandwidth allocation, they are kicked into what the university describes as a “limited and very slow … second-class network.”

“It’s essentially doing what the private cable companies are attempting to do and throttle the internet based on usage habits,” said Lindsey M. Gay, a graduate student in English. Gay said the new policy has spawned fresh debates about the role of public institutions in ensuring access to the internet. “If the digital world is here to stay, how are we going to provide equitable access to that knowledge?”