August 9, 2010 — Students returning to the University of Virginia probably won't notice that the land-line telephones are gone.
During the summer, about 3,850 telephones were removed from University residence halls, an acknowledgment that today's students rely almost exclusively on cell telephones.
"Students may still request a land-line telephone, but I don't anticipate that a lot will," said Mark Doherty, chief housing officer for the University. "Over the past several years, land-line use has decreased a lot."
The telephones had been automatically assigned to students. The Housing Division provided local calling and voice mail services; students had to make their own long-distance calling arrangements.
Housing will realize a savings of $500,000 annually by not providing telephone service, Doherty said.
"We want to reduce the upward pressure on the rates," Doherty said. "We want to make sure our expenses reflect things that are of value to the students."
While the phones have been removed from the rooms, there are still emergency telephones in dormitory hallways and residential staff areas.
Meanwhile, systems that deliver the cell phone signals have been upgraded.
"We just completed a large project with the carriers – AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon – to enhance cellular coverage in the residence halls where needed for these carriers," said Jim Jokl, director of communications and systems for the Information Technology and Communication Department. "The carriers funded the work."
Even though the telephones were removed, the wiring is still in place and support an extensive wireless computer network.
The telephones were all Rolm-brand devices, most about 10 years old, beige and pushbutton.
"There were a few rotary dial telephones in there, but not many," said Vickie Heflin, storeroom supervisor for the Housing Division.
The discarded devices were brought to the surplus property division of the Department of Procurement Services, which sold them to a variety of different buyers via online auction.
"We had about 10 to 12 pallets of them," Bobby Carefoot, surplus property manager, said. "I'm not sure what they are going to do with them, but most of them were in fairly good condition."
Carefoot said the telephones could be sold in foreign countries. Some people buy equipment in surplus auctions and then re-sell the material at online auction sites.
"I knew I would be able to get rid of them," Carefoot said. "And they would have been recycled if I couldn't sell them."