Kenyon College Bandwidth Management Policy
Bandwidth Management at Kenyon
Kenyon's Internet bandwidth is a limited resource with a specific purpose: to support the educational mission of the college. In order to preserve Internet bandwidth for use in teaching and research as well as administrative functions of the college, Kenyon puts limits on the Internet traffic generated by peer-to-peer applications.
The Kenyon Internet Connection
Internet bandwidth is inherently less than on-campus bandwidth because of (a) physical transmission characteristics for signals over long distances and (b) the current limitations at Internet traffic aggregation points (where the connections from many institutions come together). Currently, Kenyon's Internet bandwidth is 750 million bits per second (750 Mb/s). This resource is used by both the campus academic and administrative computers and the student-owned devices in the residence halls and wireless network.
On campus, each computer is connected with a line that can carry network traffic at either 10 Mb/s, 100 Mb/s, or 1000 Mb/s. Computers using a wireless connection may be working at 300 Mb/s. So even one computer on a typical campus connection (100 Mb/s) could theoretically use up a large part of the campus Internet bandwidth.
Fortunately, most applications only need to use a fraction of the bandwidth. Web browsing, streaming, chat, and e-mail, for example, are not constantly sending or receiving data. But the peer-to-peer file sharing programs, including KaZaa, BitTorrent, and many others, are set up to constantly send and receive data to the maximum limit of the computer or the network.
Without bandwidth limitation, Kenyon's Internet usage quickly becomes 100% all the time, with about 95% of the traffic generated by peer-to-peer file sharing applications. Well, what's wrong with that? Under heavy traffic loads with many types of traffic, all Internet resources function very sluggishly, especially highly interactive services like web pages, video and audio streams, and instant messenging, to the point that they are almost useless. With limits placed on the peer-to-peer tools, the Internet usage is about 60% on average, with fluctuations as low as 30% and as high as 95%. A significant portion of Kenyon Internet traffic is video streaming.
Legal and Illegal: The File Sharing Dilemma
The truth is that most file sharing is probably against the law, generally in violation of copyright protections. While there are many points of view on this topic, and it is likely that the Internet will (eventually) provoke significant changes in the way our society deals with intellectual property, the interpretation of the law at this time is clear.
To complicate matters, not all file sharing is illegal. There is a fast growing body of material on the Internet that is free to share. So the dilemma is: should Kenyon act to prevent technologies that are predominantly used to break the law, thus preventing some legitimate sharing activity?
But the legality (or illegality) of file sharing is not the only factor. The disproportionate effect of file sharing on other resources already requires us--at a minimum--to limit bandwidth for file sharing. Further, the vast majority of file sharing is for entertainment. And the purpose of the campus network and the Internet connection is to serve the educational mission of the college. Taken together, these factors have led us to a policy of blocking most peer-to-peer file sharing applications and limiting others.
Please consider this list of legal file sharing options for your entertainment.
Applications that are being Limited or Blocked
Currently, Kenyon is blocking most peer-to-peer applications, including BitTorrent, DirectConnect, KaZaA, iMesh, Gnutella, Audiogalaxy, Aimster, Hotline, Scour, and Groove. Kenyon does not block traffic for iTunes, Napster, and other popular and legal file sharing services, though at times we may limit the total bandwidth used by these. The details of these block and limit lists change frequently; you can contact LBIS for specific questions.
We have also limited bandwidth and placed low priority "tags" on a series of game applications, including Asheron's Call, Doom, Quake, HalfLife, YahooGames, battle.net, and Unreal. Unfortunately, this can sometimes have a severe impact on how well the games perform, because the low priority creates something called "latency," or response delay, when the network is busy with higher priority traffic. Again, though, game playing has no role in the educational mission of the college.