May 1, 2002

CIT Restrictions Increase Net Access

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Internet access has become more reliable on campus because of a restriction setting a maximum limit on data transfer of 27 gigabytes within three days for users, according to University officials.

If students go over that limit, they are placed in a Committed Access Rate (CAR) for three days limiting user access to a two megabyte feed per second.

“The CAR has definitely had some impact on speed,” said Jason Rhoades, director of communication services for Cornell Information Technologies (CIT). Speeds have improved approximately 5 to 10 percent, according to Rhoades.

While overall usage of bandwidth has not gone down, the amount of data sent by users that failed to deliver due to congestion has dropped from 10 percent to 1 percent, according to Abeezer Tapia ’02, chair of the Student Assembly’s (S.A.) CIT committee.

“Overall, the CAR has been pretty successful,” Tapia said. “The usage has not gone down but packet loss has dropped dramatically.”

During any three day period since implementation in February, 25 to 30 people are placed within the CAR for exceeding the 27 gigabyte limit, according to Rhoades.

“Twenty-seven gigabytes is still a ridiculous amount of data,” Tapia said.

Rhoades compared the 27 gigabyte limit to a user transferring, “multiple full length movies and hundreds of songs.”

However, students who exceed the limit need not worry that their file-sharing habits are also being policed. Once a user is placed in the CAR, ResNet does not investigate to see if the file-sharing included illegal copyrighted material, according to Rhoades.

“We are very pleased that CIT is looking out for the privacy of students,” Tapia said.

The original plan would have placed heavy bandwidth users into the CAR for the remainder of the semester after three infractions of going over the limit. That threat, however, has not been carried through.

“CIT has been very cooperative [about leniency towards heavy users] because we don’t yet have a notification system,” Tapia explained.

Tapia envisions that such a system would tell students when they approach the 27 gigabyte mark, or allow them to check how much bandwidth they have used in the last day. He hopes that a system will be in place before the beginning of the Fall semester.

In statistics released by CIT before the CAR was implemented, of ResNet’s approximately 5900 subscribers, the 20 heaviest users monopolized more bandwidth than the bottom 5000 users added together.

“The top 20 users are using the bulk of the bandwidth, while the average person is not allowed to do web surfing,” Rhoades said.

The statistics also indicated that over half of all bandwidth is consumed from KaZaA and Morpheus, two file sharing applications commonly used to trade copyrighted music or video files.

“Morpheus and KaZaA traffic is being a bully and it is not equitable for the rest of the users,” Rhoades said.

Also troubling to Rhoades is the fact that two-thirds of all total traffic is outbound, meaning that two-thirds of ResNet’s bandwidth is occupied by people elsewhere downloading files off of Cornell users’ computers.

“The [bandwidth] problem isn’t people downloading. It is people hosting things and letting others download them,” Rhoades said.

CIT encourages students to turn off outbound file-sharing when they are not present by changing the settings on file-sharing applications such as KaZaA and Morpheus.

The future of bandwidth restrictions could either lower the 27 gigabyte download limit or employ a technology called packet shaping that would ensure that KaZaA or Morpheus could not block other students from viewing web pages or checking e-mail, according to Rhoades.

“We would ask for the S.A.’s approval to do anything first,” Rhoades said.

Tapia said any future amendments to policy should be carefully weighed and added that the CAR directly affects fewer than one percent of all students.

“We are all trying to look out for the best interests of all students, including the high end users,” Tapia said.

Archived article by Peter Norlander