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Sunday, April 11, 2021

UF Housing cancels cable TV service, explores future streaming alternative

<p>Graphic of streaming services and satellite.</p>

Graphic of streaming services and satellite.

Cable is out and streaming is in, but not just yet in UF dorms.

UF Housing canceled its cable services to students in residence halls this Fall, excluding graduate and family housing, and explained a replacement is in the works. This decision was based on usage data and cost, Sara Tanner, UF Student Affairs marketing and communications director, wrote in an email.

A UF housing survey conducted in February, with responses from about 1,000 residence hall students, found that most students watch shows and movies on their laptops, not a TV, Tanner wrote. Less than 12% used cable provided by UF, but nearly three-fourths said they used streaming services.

Last year’s dorm cable contract cost UF Housing $791,677 for about 7,000 students that were living in the dorms, Tanner wrote. So this semester, she wrote, instead of paying that annual cable bill, UF Housing spent $3.3 million this summer in preparation for an online semester.

“This upgrade provides better connectivity for all including increased access to streaming and gaming sites,” Tanner wrote.

Students who live in the villages, six graduate and family housing complexes, told a different story, Tanner wrote.

There, 64% of students said they use a TV. Cable users and streamers evenly split the responses.

A cable package for students that have small children needing to be entertained during the week can make it easier on parents that have to attend class.

Internet upgrades like these are what Jessica Weber, a 19-year-old UF astrophysics sophomore, would like to see more than cable or streaming amenities.

“If they were to put money into something, I would say WiFi is more important,” Weber said.

Weber lives on campus at Lakeside Complex with three roommates. A WiFi outage Wednesday morning stopped Weber from logging into Zoom. Luckily, by her 10 a.m. physics office hours, she was online.

This outage does not appear to have been caused by any issues with the new dorm infrastructure, as UFIT attributed the issue to unexpected network traffic that was resolved by 9 a.m.

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“We're doing all classes at the dorms or at home, so WiFi is necessary, especially for exams,” Weber said.

Weber said not having cable this semester does not bother her. She barely watches cable at home in Miami.

“Even last year, when we had a TV in the common room, I never really used it,” she said. “Because I mostly use streaming services like Netflix or Hulu.”

Jackson Anderson, a 19-year-old UF finance sophomore, bought a TV when he moved into Lakeside. He wasn’t aware that cable was being discontinued until he got on campus.

“It wasn't a big deal, especially since I have streaming services now,” Anderson said.

Anderson lived in Beaty Towers last year, where the common area TV was a gathering place for his floor to watch Sunday night NFL games.

“That was actually something I would do almost on a weekly basis, especially in the playoffs to watch the Ravens get destroyed,” he said.

Anderson thinks the idea of a streaming service provided by UF would be interesting, but only hopes that this service would be included in dorm payments in the same way that cable was.

In the meantime, and without cable access, on-campus students will have to wait to see what UF Housing decides on.

“We’re kind of caught in purgatory,” Anderson said.

Graphic of streaming services and satellite.

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