January 29, 2016

C.U. Data Allowance Rises to 150GB Per User

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Users of Cornell’s wi-fi network now have an extra 50 gigabytes per month after Cornell Information Technology Services increased its free monthly data allocation to 150 GB per user this semester.

Students who use the network will incur charges only after exceeding this initial 150 GB, and can monitor their monthly usage through Cornell’s Network Usage-Based Billing.

The University aims to have 90 to 95 percent of the users of the network covered by the allocation, according to Beth Lyons, associate chief information officer of Cornell I.T. Services. After seeing that the percentage of users covered start to dip below 90 percent, she said Cornell I.T. made the decision to increase the data allocation.

“Most of the usage comes from students, so our goal there is to balance what their allocation is against what the network can support,” Lyons said.

She added that the University only covers 90 to 95 percent and not 100 percent of users through the data allocation, to ensure that the additional five to 10 percent of users that exceed the usage allocation are not subsidized by the rest of the users.

“We cannot overbuild the network [to] meet 100 percent of the needs and it would not be fair to do so, because then everyone else would be subsidizing the highest users,” Lyons said.

To put the current data allocation into perspective, according to the online data usage calulator cableone.net, the 150 GB would allow students up to 140 hours per month of high definition video streaming or four and a half hours of HD video streaming per day.

The University has seen data usage on the network grow dramatically over time with the rise of numerous video streaming services and smartphone devices. Cornell I.T. has been using the current allocation method since 2003, at which point each user was allocated only 2 GB, according to Lyons.

To set the data allocation cap, the University tracks, monitors and projects data usage, Lyons said. Typically the University does not change the data allocation more than “once a year” because it takes usually a year to track the data usage patterns that are established, she said.

“We cannot tune it precisely month to month, but some of it comes down to what the network infrastructure changes need to be,” Lyons said. “In this case we just changed the allocation and the billing cap, and we already had a plan underway to change the four routers, so all of this is a constant effort to keep the network to what the University demands are.”

Some students have reacted positively to the University’s attention to student complaints.

Danny Qiu ’19, who works as a service desk consultant with Cornell I.T., said the changes will help reduce the number of students who exceed the cap.

“Students frequently complain about how easy it is to use up all 100 GB of data,” Qiu said. “Seeing this data cap increase leads me to believe that Cornell is certainly listening to the voices and concerns of the students.”