ITS restricts downloading

Regular campus users of information-sharing web sites such as Gnutella and Napster may encounter new restrictions recently implemented by Queen’s Information Technology Services (ITS).

In an attempt to curb excessive downloading and uploading from the Internet, ITS has decided to closely monitor and limit the amount of information that can be shared by computers on campus.

On-campus computers, including ResNet equipment and public computing sites, can now download as well as upload one gigabyte of information in a period of five days. The average MP3 file is about three megabytes, meaning that students can download over 300 songs in five days without breaking any of the new restrictions.

These precautions will help to limit the amount of information travelling through on-campus computers, possibly relieving some of the tension on the Queen’s network.

“I don’t really mind if they monitor my computer. It doesn’t bother me, because if everyone is on at the same time, they could crash the server,” remarked Jill Giff, ArtSci ’04. All on-campus computers are currently being monitored by ITS, a system that has been in place for the past few years. While ITS cannot actually tell which sites their users are visiting, they can tell how much information is travelling into and out of each computer on campus.

“What we’re doing is no different from anything we’ve done in at least four years. There are about 10 000 computers on campus that we monitor, including offices, research computers and public computing sites,” said Geoff LeBoldus, systems programmer specialist.

“We have always spoken to students who use what we think is an inordinate amount of bandwidth. But now, there is so much use for the Internet that bandwidth has become a problem.”

ResNet users attribute the popular use of sites such as Scour and Napster as being the probable cause of the dramatic increase in downloading and uploading time for most computer users. Since ITS already spends a great deal of funds for Internet access, increasing bandwidth for on-campus computers is not an option. Instead, on-campus users cannot download or upload an unlimited amount of information.

While other schools have opted to block on-campus access to these sites altogether, or put tight restrictions on the amount of information sharing that can go on, ITS has decided to monitor the amount of information sharing, intervening only when that amount becomes too extreme.

But some don’t appreciate the fact that limits are in place to restrict the amount of information they share on the Internet.

“I really don’t think it’s a good idea. We are using them as a network, but a lot of profs put stuff on your courses on the Internet that you have to download, and some are huge files,” commented Lori Burnagiel, ConEd ‘04.

ITS does not deal directly with users who are sharing information in excess of one gigabyte every five days. Residence staff issue warnings to those who are downloading and uploading excessively. If the behaviour persists, they will possibly shut the jack off, severing the student’s ties with the electronic world.

Departmental Computing Representatives are the conduits of information in faculty and departmental offices. They are the individuals who warn faculty users or other offices if they are sharing information excessively. There is no hard and fast procedure for dealing with these individuals, and, as explained by LeBoldus, “issues with the faculty are handled sensitively.” According to LeBoldus, although the current restrictions on information sharing remain moderately light, an increase in excessive downloading and uploading from the Internet could result in further changes. LeBoldus also indicated that ITS reserves the right to decrease the amount of information on-campus users may share if it becomes a significant problem.

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