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Officials plan to prevent e-mail traffic jams

By Rachael Myer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 28, 1998
Send comments to:
city@wildcat.arizona.edu

If the University of Arizona's e-mail system were a freeway, traffic would be backed up for miles.

But UA officials are planning to clear up the congestion by accelerating transmission speeds next year.

E-mail traffic peaks at about 165,000 messages a day, compared to last semester's average of about 60,000 each day, said Amelia Tynan, vice provost for university technology.

During e-mail rush hour - around noon - it can take up to an hour for electronic mail to be delivered, Tynan said.

The Center for Computing and Information Technology plans to fix the delays by next fall, installing new software, faster hardware and better tools to monitor the system, computing manager Viji Muralidharan said.

"It (e-mail) is like Tucson's highways - if the lanes aren't big enough it can't accommodate the students," Muralidharan said.

She said the project will delayed until next year to minimize communication disruption.

E-mail use has increased because many courses now include listservs and "virtual office hours," and because all freshman have e-mail accounts, Muralidharan said.

This semester, 332 classes require listservs, about 50 more than last semester, she said.

Tynan said the growth of electronic communication is inevitable.

"Education is facilitated by e-mail," she said. "It's become part of our instructional use."

Three-fourths of the University of Arizona's 40,000 e-mail accounts belong to students, Muralidharan said.

Twelve students inter-viewed Friday said their e-mail accounts seem normal.

But chemistry junior Dave Margolis said he was not upset when his account was lagging a few weeks ago.

"I don't think you can complain - it's free," he said. "It didn't really matter."

La Paz computer assistant Scott Terrell said not many students complain about e-mail, but "they complain about everything else."

Terrell, a creative writing senior, said students tend to gripe about the computer lab's temperature or the chairs being too short, but e-mail is not at the top of the list.

English studies major Cara Cline said she was not surprised that e-mail use is rising.

"The more they try to integrate computers into school, the more traffic will increase," Cline said.

Muralidharan said e-mail traffic peaks during the start of the semester, around mid-terms and near finals.

She said CCIT anticipated an increased volume before the semester started, and upgraded the system by doubling personal e-mail storage space.

Rachael Myer can be reached via e-mail at Rachael.Myer@wildcat.arizona.edu.