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University caps bandwidth use

Administrators announced a policy last week that will limit individuals' bandwidth usage in order to speed up network service for students on the residential student network.

 The policy, which should go into effect some time next week, will limit computers on ResNet from sending more than five gigabytes of data off campus per day.

 Under a similar bandwidth cap imposed last November, the University limited bandwidth usage globally for residence halls. Now, usage will be monitored individually--a change inspired by the Office of Information Technology's findings that 10 percent of the people on ResNet were using 90 percent of the available bandwidth.

 Christopher Cramer, information technology security officer, said the new policy would affect few students, at least initially.

 "The five-gigabyte threshold won't even impact the whole 10 percent that was using most of the bandwidth before," Cramer said. "It may impact 50 to maybe 100 students at this moment in time, but that may change as everything else changes. If some people stop using so much bandwidth, other computers may pick up the slack."

 To put things in perspective, Cramer said five gigabytes is roughly the amount of data one DVD or eight CDs can hold. He added that it can cost around $30 per month to buy five gigabytes of bandwidth from a commercialized Internet service provider.

 Cramer said the University's new cap of five gigabytes per day should provide students with ample bandwidth to use the Internet comfortably. "It's hard to come up with something that uses that much bandwidth," he said.

 Students who exceed the five-gigabyte daily limit will receive a warning from OIT letting them know they are using too much bandwidth. OIT will also provide information on how to reduce personal bandwidth usage and will help students get in touch with the appropriate officials to petition for more bandwidth. Some network users, for example, may need additional bandwidth for their academic research. If students ignore the five-gigabyte limit, their available bandwidth will be cut back to 64 kilobits per second.

 "The proposal from Duke Student Government was that we should give students a warning before cutting back their bandwidth," Cramer said. "But if they receive five warnings, then we will limit their outbound bandwidth to essentially a very fast modem."

 The new policy--announced by Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer, and Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs--resulted from a DSG initiative to combat bandwidth congestion, which many students complained was causing serious slowdowns in network speed and compromising ResNet's ability to fulfill academic and communications purposes.

 Cramer stressed that the new cap applies only to data being transmitted to the Internet and will not impact inbound bandwidth at this time.

 The University's new bandwidth policy comes at a time when concerns about peer-to-peer file sharing is on many students' minds. The Recording Industry Association of American sued hundreds of students Monday for sharing large amounts of copyrighted material--a practice that often uses a substantial amount of bandwidth.

 "The way the network works now, there's a fixed amount of bandwidth available for ResNet, and it's application insensitive," said Robert Currier, director of information technology. "If we get rid of really big bandwidth consumers, such as peer-to-peer users, then there will be more available for other things, and there would be a significant improvement in the way people feel the network is operating."

 Cramer noted that, compared to other comparable universities such as Princeton University, Duke allows its students far more bandwidth.

 "Some other universities only give between 50 and 70 megabits per second to their dorms, while Duke's outbound capacity is 100 megabits per second," Cramer said. "Plus we don't have a cap on inbound data."


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