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Bloomington Herald Times Articles

September 27, 2007

IU officials break ground on new research building
By James Boyd
September 27, 2007

Indiana University's commitment to the life sciences is going to be set in stone.

A lot of stone.

Officials broke ceremonial ground Wednesday on what is being called Multidisciplinary Science Building II, a 128,000 square-foot, six-floor building that will be dedicated for research and other scientific academic work.

The building is being constructed just north of the Kelley School of Business Graduate and Executive Education Center.

"This is a much-needed life-sciences facility," IU president Michael McRobbie said. "It allows us to look to the future, and allows room for growth."

McRobbie said the building was designed to foster collaborations between researchers like chemists and biologists.

Neuroscience, biogeochemistry and environmental science programs will all be housed in the building.

"Science and technology are fundamentally changing the way we live and work," dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bennett Berthenthal said. "Indiana University must provide new infrastructure if we're going to continue our cutting-edge research."

The building itself will be constructed with native Indiana limestone and will be "environmentally and green-friendly," McRobbie said.

That should create an atmosphere conducive to the work being done inside.

Berthenthal said scientists will be able to further their research on such environmental topics as climate change and studying atmospheric changes as a result of things such as transmission emissions.

Researchers in the neuroscience fields will be able to study the effects of pain on certain brain cells.

The building is expected to cost $45.9 milllion to construct, with nearly $32 million of that coming through bonding authority granted from the state.

There was no set opening date announced at Wednesday's ceremony.


Big Ten Network pressure building

By Mike Leonard H-T columnist
September 27, 2007

As time inches by and the Indiana University men's basketball season looms closer, I'm hearing more and more people say that they're tired of the standoff between Comcast cable and the Big Ten Network and they're ready to switch to a satellite television provider.

We're nearing a classic pressure point in the negotiations between the new Big Ten sports network and the cable giant. The Big Ten has its list of demands and the cable company contends that the conference is asking for too much.

It's almost like a heavy duty labor/management fight, with one notable exception.

There is no little guy in this fight. Both sides are looking to screw the public.

Now isn't that something we all can feel good about?

To recount what's been reported in these pages several times now: the Big Ten has put together a network that will carry not only the typical, revenue-generating sports of men's football and basketball but women's sports and the so-called minor sports that typically don't get televised.

So far, so good.

The problem is that the Big Ten wants Comcast to pay it a reported $1.10 per customer for the privilege of carrying the Big Ten Network And the Big Ten wants to be included on the cable company's expanded basic lineup. Comcast wants to place the new network on its premium (pay extra) digital sports tier. And it says the Big Ten's asking price is too high.

"Usually when new networks start up, they charge very low cable subscriber fees to get established," explained David Waterman, an Indiana University telecommunications professor. "If they prove to be popular, then they look to charge higher fees."

Waterman said the Big Ten's demand for $1.10 struck observers as "a shockingly high price for a new network." The well-established news network CNN charges less than $1, for example.

In addition, the telecommunications professor pointed out, the major television networks and ESPN already have contracts with the NCAA that pretty much give them the rights to the biggest and most important games. "The Big Ten is asking a high price for what they are offering," he reiterated.

That will change in places such as Bloomington this winter, when people come to grips with the fact that most IU basketball games will be telecast on the Big Ten Network and therefore will not be available either over the airwaves or on Insight cable, which will be taken over by Comcast in 2008. At that point, the value of the network product will rise, as will the tempers of IU's passionate fans.

For years, IU had the strongest basketball network of any team in the Big Ten and fans became accustomed to seeing almost every game on free television. Times have changed, and people have become accustomed to having to have access to ESPN, which is only available on cable.

Whether they will pony up to see the Big Ten Network for an extra fee — Comcast's wish — is anyone's guess. But if they can't get more than half of the games on cable, it could launch a mass exodus to satellite television, which already has negotiated contracts to carry the Big Ten Network. That's the pressure the Big Ten can put on Comcast.

As IU's Waterman pointed out, there really isn't much middle ground between the hardened positions of Comcast and the Big Ten Network. The network could, and likely will, negotiate down on the dollar amount it wants from the cable provider. But there is a big gulf between the "expanded basic cable" package that most cable subscribers already pay for and the premium tier that runs an extra $5 a month, in addition to the rental of a digital converter box.

"Usually in these types of negotiations, they play hardball as long as they can and then they come to an agreement because, really, it's in everyone's best interests," Waterman said.

The Big Ten has already promised member institutions they'll make a lot of money on the new network. So it's not unfair to say they've sold out on their supporters. Fans will pay more under just about any circumstance, either through premium digital cable or higher user fees, when companies such as Comcast say their programming costs have increased.

And Comcast? They didn't become the nation's largest cable provider by losing money. They're not building the tallest building on the Philadelphia skyline because they're going broke.

Satellite television services may stand to gain, but disruptions to service because of inclement weather remain a significant problem.

"It will be interesting to see how this plays out," said IU's Waterman. Indeed. The Big Ten flap probably is the biggest in the country, but other athletic conferences are trotting out the same model and fighting the same battles across the country. In fact, in the Mountain West Conference, Comcast is the only carrier for the league, and satellite and over-the-air customers are crying foul.