Universities restrict Internet use following student abuse

Jeff Stone

McCormick sophomore Mal Ratz is tired of waiting for files to download.

“I would accept restrictions on how much we could download if download speed would increase,” Ratz said. “Sometimes I have needed something for homework and had to wait half an hour.”

Ratz said she would favor a change in the Internet limiting policy, such as the limitations recently imposed by Pennsylvania State University.

At the beginning of winter semester, Penn State restricted Internet usage on campus by limiting the amount of information that can be downloaded. But Penn State has not implemented any bandwidth policy that would slow download speed.

“I understood why it has to be done, and if it helps out the speed of the Internet, which has been pretty slow lately, then I feel there is no reason why the restrictions should not be placed,” Penn State freshman Jill Safinski said.

Penn State students are limited to downloading 1.5 gigabytes per week.

“It still allows me to download a lot of information, so it really has not affected me,” Safinski said. “It really only affects those who want to download movies to their computers or other things that take up a lot of space. With the amount that is allowed per week, I can download up to 300 mp3s.”

Penn State enacted the new restrictions because out of 15,000 registered computer owners, 247 students were using up 46 percent of the collective Internet bandwidth, according to U-Wire.

“When people abuse their privileges then repercussions can only be expected to be placed on the student body,” Safinski said. “People wanted to make sure their connection stayed at top speed, and the only way for the university to do that was to place Internet restrictions.”

Penn State’s Internet restrictions do not exist at Northwestern, but NU does place a restriction on bandwidth, which controls is the speed at which users can download.

“Currently there is no restriction on how much data you can move on and off your computer,” Director of Technology Support Services Tom Board said. “The restriction is how wide the pipe is that you put data through, not how much data.

“The amount of bandwidth allowed is modified throughout the day. The bandwidth is increased for students in the evening because students are the only ones on campus.”

Ratz said she favored Penn State’s method of handling Internet abuse.

“One point five gigabytes would be more than adequate,” Ratz said.

But other students said they favor NU’s Internet restrictions.

“I think both situations have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the needs and wants of the user,” Music sophomore and Hobart House Residential Networking Consultant Kate Gerth said. “Personally, I would prefer the unrestricted amount because you can always leave your computer on while you sleep.”

The two policies address different situations. While NU makes sure the Internet is available all the time for everyone who wants to use it, Penn State allows students to download at a higher speed.

“Penn State solved a different problem than we did,” Board said. “The problem we solved gives everyone equitable access.

“We did not want to see any particular user or application swamp the system,” he said. “The Internet is a resource that everyone needs access to whenever they look for it. This way the Internet can be efficiently used throughout the day.”