Brown’s bandwidth capacity sufficient for now, but use growing

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Brown’s connection to the Internet is sufficient for the near future, despite increases in traffic as more students download large files such as videos, according to Timothy Wells, director of network technology for Computing and Information Services.

Because there is no shortage of bandwidth, the University does not restrict the kinds of traffic on the network, Wells said.

Brown is connected to the Internet through OSHEAN, a coalition that provides Internet services to over 20 non-profit organizations in Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, including the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Rhode Island. OSHEAN provides Brown with two 190 megabit connections, one for residence halls and the other for academic and administrative buildings.

At peak hours, Brown uses 100 megabits of the academic connection and up to 150 megabits of the residential connection. Usage is much lower in the evenings, Wells said.

Bandwidth use is increasing, though, as more students download large files. “We have seen (traffic) go up a lot over the last year,” Wells said. “Eventually we’ll have to upgrade, and that’s what the name of the tune is.”

Upgrading to greater bandwidth will be costly, Wells added, so Brown will not do so until usage projections indicate that it is necessary.

Though the content of traffic on the Brown network is unregulated, CIS does try to prevent users from abusing the network. Individual connections are throttled to a 3 MB download and a 512 KB upload limit – similar to a typical cable modem connection. CIS does not track what applications a student is using and does not impose special restrictions on individual students, although it could do either of those things if it became necessary.

The one exception to CIS’s policy of not tracking student Internet use is when it receives a legal request to do so from an organization like the Recording Industry Association of America.

Wells also said Brown’s IPTV service does not reduce the amount of available bandwidth because the IPTV server is on-campus, and Brown’s ability to carry internal network traffic is enormous.

Students seem pleased with Brown’s Internet connection. “Bandwidth would be one of the last things I would complain about as far as technology at Brown,” said Owen Strain ’08, a computer science concentrator.

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