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Bonus for all: the Sixty-hour free access to international websites

Peking University, Mar. 01, 2014: On February 20, 2014, a post announcing the policy of sixty-hour free access to international websites caused heated discussions on PKU campus. The news was quickly spread on Wechat, BBS, Renren, and other social networks and the newly come bonus was widely dubbed as “industry conscience” by PKU students.


The announcement on its.pku.edu.cn (Peking University’s official website for online service) reads: “With the aim of encouraging faculty and students to access quality education resources at home and abroad, campus will adjust the internet policy. Sixty-hour free access to international websites will be provided for faculty and students.”


The announcement came as a sweet surprise to many PKU students, because the former internet policy had long been a headache for those who needed to tap into international resources on a daily basis. Before, there were only three alternatives: paying high fees for the access to international websites, using proxies to get connected–with quite unstable connections, or simply remaining isolated from the World-Wide-Web world outside China.


“As English majors, we have a great need to resort to international websites like Wikipedia, OECD, the Economics, etc., for writing numerous papers and reading newspapers intensively,” said Zhang Chunlin, a sophomore in English Department, School of Foreign Languages.


The problem was prevalent not only in School of Foreign Languages, but in every PKU student’s daily life. The official website for TOEFL, major western news websites, the vast majority of websites with domain name “.org” and “.net” were not available for most.


The demand was always there, but never met. Such is also the case for many major universities in China. For Nanjing University, the first free-of-charge 30 hour Internet service and the ¥0.2-per-hour exceeding part are provided without access to international website. For Nankai University, the most popular subscription – ¥20 for 10 G – is without international service. The case is better for Tsinghua University. Its free 20 G subscription is with international service, but with expensive algorithm for exceeding flow. Perhaps, the best-case scenario is in Zhejiang University – ¥10 per month without time or flow limits with international access. “But the speed is rather ‘zha’ (A popular term among young people as the equivalent for “bad.” Here it means glacial.),” said Chen Yige, sophomore from Zhejiang University.


It seems that PKU is taking the lead among Chinese universities by providing better internet service. But some view this adjustment as more than an internet bonus. “Providing students with basic internet access is a top university’s basic obligation. This service is long overdue, which does not deserve praise and this is far from being enough. I hope that one day students can enjoy this service without time limit,” said Jiadi, a sophomore from the School of Economics.


Beyond interpreting this act as PKU’s fulfillment of its top-university obligation, this expansion of internet service echoes PKU’s other internet ambitions–from the first four public online courses on Coursera to the former President Zhou Qifeng’s dream “making PKU the alma mater of every Chinese” by means of online education, from digitalization of academic resources to the online administration of students’ clubs. PKU is trying hard to lead Chinese universities, time and again, in the dot-com era.


For PKU, the next step towards dream now seems massively online. The means is largely secured and at the start line, it seems promised with a bright future. “But this massive installation of internet infrastructure, which signifies more advanced education resource, is far from being enough,” said Jiadi. “PKU still has a long way to go in terms of its social obligations as a top-notch school in China.”


Reported by: Chen Runxi

Edited by: Zhang Jiang