UA's free Net incomparable to paid services


I would like to clarify some facts that Christine Verges stated in her column ("Net use free, for now," Sept. 25) about the Internet. Specifically, I would like to address the assertion that Ms. Verges made about the CompuServe Consumer Information Service.

What can not be argued is that CompuServe offers to its membership comprehensive access to the World Wide Web, Newsgroups, Telnet, FTP, and mailing lists (just as to some extent America Online, Prodigy, eWorld, and the Microsoft Network do). By asserting that CompuServe was never intended to provide comprehensive access to the Internet, Ms. Verges does a great disservice to both CompuServe and the other commercial online services. In the late 1970s when a University of Arizona MIS undergraduate started what today has become CompuServe, I am sure he did not intend for it to be what it has become today. Does that mean that what CompuServe is being used for today is impractical and that what we use it for should be limited to the original design? I sincerely hope not.

Commercial online services offer a far greater deal of flexibility and ease of use when compared to the free access that the University of Arizona provides to students and faculty. There is absolute no doubt in my mind that the free Internet access and e-mail accounts the UA offers are some of the most valuable tools a student or faculty member can have, and I applaud the UA for providing such tools for our use. However, the facts are clear that using a UNIX based system (or even the new menu-based U.Arizona system) can be intimidating for a great many people. When compared to the graphical interface of America Online or CompuServe the obvious choice is going to be the commercial options.

Finally, comparing the commercial online services with the access that the University of Arizona offers is not a fair comparison. Commercial online services are available to anyone, while the UA's systems are exclusive to the faculty and students of the university. They both have different directives and purposes. They are designed for different tasks, and although the University of Arizona (and other educational and governmental organizations) were what the Internet was originally designed for, to limit its use to those organizations in today's age does not make sense.

Dan Miller

Senior Sysop, ZD Net/Mac

Communications Senior

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