Editorial: Bandwidth Bungle


In the good old days, universities didn’t have to worry about words like “bandwidth.” But now, as the world continues to get jacked into the World Wide Web, campuses everywhere are struggling to meet the needs of their wireless student population.
Here at Webster University, campus-wide access to wireless Internet was realized only about one year ago and the Information Technology (IT) Department already has some bad news: we’re running out of bandwidth.
The Journal has learned that the faculty and staff server, provided by AT&T, is operating at over 90 percent capacity. In other words, it’s full, or very nearly full.
In fact, bandwidth is so scarce the School of Communications dean, Debra Carpenter, emailed her staff recently to warn that Pandora, the popular music website, was consuming a substantial portion of faculty bandwidth. In a not-so-subtle hint, Carpenter asked faculty to inform her if they were accessing the site for educational or recreational purposes.
The Journal reported in this issue that several provisions are being considered, including purchasing increased memory for the server, as the university did for the student server this past summer.
While IT and administrative officials have been reluctant to commit to specific solutions for this problem, The Journal must express some concern at the idea that websites will soon be blocked in order to save precious bandwidth.
Of course, no such blocking yet exists. The IT department has collected large amounts of data on which websites are consuming the most bandwidth. However, they declined to make this information available to our reporters, indicating they will make the information public online at an unspecified date in the future. But The Journal foresees a slippery slope ahead.
If Pandora represents more than 10 percent of the bandwidth on the faculty and staff server, what is the share for sites like NetFlix or, heaven forbid, Facebook? Surely YouTube must be a major presence on the bandwidth-glutton list.
What we here at The Journal keep wondering is, how much would increasing our servers capacity cost? Is it really such an expensively unfeasible option that we are actually considering Internet blocks? What would be the cost of these new servers as compared to, say, the new East Academic Building currently under construction?
When will restricted access or limited availability begin to affect students, who just recently got access to internet across campus?
The Journal would like to stress that transparency of information is central to this dilemma. Without knowing the full details of our current bandwidth troubles, how can the students or faculty make a judgment?

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