Hook up, plug in

New students have some choices to make when it comes to getting connected

Leaving home for the first time is one of the great experiences in life’s adventure. The anticipation and waiting are over; the parties and dom have arrived.

Not so fast. There’s much more to it than that. With newfound freedom comes responsibility; after all, you’re taking care of yourself now. If you’re like most 18-year-old college freshmen and have no idea where to start, here’s a little run-through to facilitate one of your biggest challenges: housing. Even if you’re living in the dorms, you still have a lot to figure out: Internet, power and water are included, but phone service and television are up to you.

Let’s begin with cell-phone service. Verizon, T-Mobile and Cingular are all popular options but vary slightly in service plans and prices. (There are also purely local services, like Cricket, but I’m assuming you’ll want to be able to call your out-of-town parents to ask for money.) Before you dive into this, though, realize that each company will run a credit check. If you have no credit, companies will demand a co-signer, such as your parents. All companies offer similar deals, such as free night-time and weekend minutes, no roaming and no extra fees for long-distance calls.

With comparable plans between 900 and 1,000 minutes, the best deal I could dig up was with T-Mobile, 826-7007. The special includes 1,000 minutes for $39.99 per month. The cheapest phone costs only $5.85, the sales tax. T-Mobile camera phones start at $69.99 and offer better reception than their cheaper counterparts. The monthly deal requires a one-year contract and a $35 activation fee. T-Mobile is inside Meadowood Mall.

Cingular, 1274 Plumb Lane, 689-2727, offers a plan that includes 900 minutes for $59.99. Cingular may have higher initial costs, but any unused minutes with Cingular roll over into the following month. Entry-level phones, bought with a mandatory one-year contract, will cost about $70. A two-year contract makes the same phone significantly less, about $20. Camera phones bought on a one-year contract start at $129, and are only $79.99 for a two-year deal. Cingular service requires a $36 activation fee.

Verizon, 5000 Smithridge Drive, 829-1848, offers an identical deal to T-Mobile, without the rollover minutes. While some plans may be cheaper, be sure the phone will work in your area. Every service has a number of “dead spots” around Reno where the phone receives poor service. Make sure that dead spot isn’t your house.

For land-line phone service, a requirement for many Internet platforms, SBC, (877) 469-2355, is your best bet. While SBC will offer dorm residents an activation deal during the first weeks of school, these rates weren’t available at press time. A typical SBC local phone line will cost $10.83 per month with a 5-cents-per-minute long-distance charge for up to 200 minutes. Additional long-distance minutes will cost 7 cents. For those not living in the dorms, SBC offers an Internet connection for $29.99 in addition to the phone service. If a wireless connection is desired, there is a $149 fee for parts and installation. It includes a $50 rebate and a $50 credit. A regular modem connection costs $99.

Now come the real expenses, applicable only to those roughing it outside the dorms. In north Reno, the area around campus, Sierra Pacific Power, 834-4444, is a solid choice for gas and electric. Before installation, SPP will run a credit check and may also require a co-signer. All connections require a $15 connection fee and a deposit based on the size of the house and estimated power and gas usage. A typical college house with four bedrooms, air conditioning and heat, will cost upwards of $350 per month in the winter and about $150 per month in the summer. The monthly bill can be paid online or at grocery stores around Reno, such as Raleys, Scolaris and WinCo.

Water is another necessity for the rookie home-renter. Truckee Meadows Water Authority, 834-8080, is the go-to source for your water needs. Water hook-ups require a $25 activation fee and a deposit which is based on the water-usage history of the house. In a typical college home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, a normal monthly bill in the summer will run about $75-$80 per month. It runs about $25-$30 per month in the winter.

For those whose life is meaningless without a television, Charter Communications, (866) 731-5420, has got access covered. Like SBC, Charter will offer a deal to on-campus residents during the beginning weeks of school, but those numbers were unavailable at press time. The normal activation fee is $29.95, and monthly cable service costs $54.95 per month. This service includes basic cable and a choice between a movie, family or sports package.

So, there you have it, the beginner’s guide to moving out and moving in. There are a couple reasons not to procrastinate on this stuff. First, you need to keep your parents’ worry level down with frequent calls to let them know you aren’t frittering their college savings away, and second, what good is a party without lights, music or running water?