Limits necessary to universities' internet bandwidth usage

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The limit set on weekly internet bandwidth usage can be a hassle when living on campus, but it may be the only way UT can manage Internet usage for a large student body.

UT uses an internet system that provides a basic bandwidth of 500MB per week to students on campus, allowing them to also purchase more bandwidth if they choose to do so. UT manages its own Internet network, allowing the university to provide Internet services to faculty and students while preventing non-UT members from using the system, said radio-television-film professor Sharon Strover. She said if the system was not limited, the network would go down when too many users tried to access it.

“It would be a problem if the University was providing Internet for people in Hyde Park,” Strover said. “Allocation is necessary if you don’t want to interfere with other people or other entities.”

The University charges students for increased use because it’s necessary to make sure that no one is using too much of the system’s bandwidth, Strover said.

“Just because UT has an allocated part of the spectrum, that doesn’t mean that there’s an infinite amount of Wi-Fi,” Strover said. “They don’t want you to run a server out of your dorm because it would eat up too much of the Internet.”

Allocation also means that students have to be careful about using up their bandwidth before it refreshes at the end of the week. English freshman Giancarlo Besa, who often uses Skype to communicate with family and friends who live in Mexico, said he has run out of bandwidth five times since coming to UT.

“You do have to think about what you’re doing with your Internet,” Besa said. “It’s not so good when I have to limit my family to one Skype chat per week when my bandwidth is so [quickly] used up.”

However, UT’s system is not the only type of university-wide Wi-Fi network. At Texas State, which has 27,000 undergraduates, there are two free networks that provide different services for students. One is a general network for browsing and the other is encrypted for academic purposes, but both allow unlimited Wi-Fi usage provided that a student doesn’t abuse the system, said Texas State special assistant to the Vice President for information technology, Don Volz.

“Students living in our residence halls are heavy users of the Internet for gaming and browsing, and if we determine a particular user is doing something to the detriment of other students’ usage, we will shut them down,” Volz said.

While it does provide certain benefits to students, Volz said Texas State’s system might not work at larger universities that have to provide for even greater numbers of students.

“It certainly has a lot to do with the size of the body you have to provide for,” Volz said. “Also, some of it is culture-based and depends on the expectations of the students, faculty and staff. A lot of things go into the criteria that decides how a system will work.”

Printed on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 as: Internet bandwidth limits necessary for campus networks