Kenyon's internet bandwidth is a limited resource with a specific purpose: to support the educational mission of the college. Peer-to-peer file sharing software, used primarily for sharing music or video files, and internet multi-player games can easily use up all of the available bandwidth. In order to preserve bandwidth for use in teaching, research and administrative functions, Kenyon has put limits and set low priorities on the internet traffic generated by these peer-to-peer applications.
The Kenyon Internet Connection
Currently, Kenyon's internet bandwidth is 130 million bits per second (130 Mb/s). This resource is used by both the campus academic and administrative computers and the student-owned computers in the residence halls. Even one computer on a typical campus connection could theoretically use up all of the campus internet bandwidth. Fortunately, most applications only need to use a fraction of that bandwidth. Web surfing, instant messaging and email, for example, are not constantly sending or receiving data. Peer-to-peer file sharing programs, however, are set up to constantly send and receive data to the maximum limit of the computer or the network.
Without bandwidth limitation, Kenyon's available network capabilities quickly become overloaded with about 95% of the traffic generated by peer-to-peer file sharing applications. Under heavy loads with many types of traffic, all Internet resources function sluggishly, with some applications slowing to the point where they become useless.
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?
The legality of file sharing is not the only factor when considering bandwidth allotments. The disproportionate effect of file sharing on other resources already requires us to at least limit bandwidth for file sharing. Further, the vast majority of file sharing is for entertainment and the purpose of the campus network and internet connection is not to entertain, but to serve the educational mission of the college. In summation, these factors have led us to a policy of blocking most file sharing applications and limiting others.
Applications that are being Limited or Blocked
Currently, Kenyon is blocking most peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent. Kenyon is limiting peer-to-peer traffic for applications such as iTunes, and other popular and legal file sharing services. 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 such as Steam. Unfortunately, this can sometimes have a severe impact on how well games perform because the low priority creates latency, or response delay when the network is busy with higher priority traffic. Again, however, gaming has no role in the educational mission of the college.
(For more general information about network performance at Kenyon, see "Why is My Network Connection So Slow?")