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Summary:

Are students watching so much Netflix that fellow class members don’t have any bandwidth left to study? Officials at Ohio University think so, and they briefly instituted a complete ban on all Netflix video streaming on their campus network this week.

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Ohio University briefly instituted a “No-Netflix Policy” on its campus network this week, attempting to blocking access to the service in an effort to deal with acute network congestion (hat tip to Davis Freeberg). However, the measure backfired, temporarily taking down the university’s entire network during finals week. The school has since instituted a general bandwidth limit, and its CIO Brice Bible is now urging universities to have “a substantive conversation” on how to deal with their students’ Netflix usage.

Bible informed students earlier this week that a temporary Netflix block would go into effect Monday night, saying that the video service is “the largest single consumer of our Internet capacity.” School technicians tried to block Netflix twice that night, but instead shut off net access entirely. They finally gave up and instead instituted a 5Mbps download limit per residence hall user. It’s unclear whether this will help much, since most Netflix streams are 3800kbps or less.

Ohio U’s Technology Department said on its website Tuesday that streaming media now accounts for 60 percent of all traffic on its campus network. Netflix alone is responsible for 28 percent. The school received a 10 percent bandwidth increase in February, but is still regularly maxing out on available bandwidth. The post was illustrated with the following bandwidth graph:

The incident brings back memories of a time when file sharing services like Napster and later BitTorrent were saturating campus networks. Many schools — including Ohio University — instituted bans on all P2P protocols at the time, only to later switch to models that target specific acts of infringement. However, it looks like P2P only plays a minor role in network congestion these days. At Ohio University, only six percent of all bandwidth is consumed by BitTorrent.

No TV image courtesy of Flickr user Mykl Roventine.

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  1. One might find it strange that a university with a track record of allowing RIAA, MPAA and other media organizations free access to IP/Student names when investigating infringement that suddenly, a network that last quarters finals week had no internet problems, now has trouble with that darn streaming video. TimeWarner hates streaming video it cant profit from, good thing they have a death grip on the internet and OU happens to be its biggest subscriber in the region. I’m just saying follow the money( ironic considering that OU cant afford to buy a server to keep up with this “increase in demand”)

    1. OU is not a Time Warner subscriber. Not sure where you got that information, but you are mistaken.

    2. Also, there isn’t some magical server they can buy to increase bandwidth. A “server” isn’t the issue here. Educate yourself before you make such comments.

  2. Interesting…I had several classes in which we watched documentaries/videos on Netflix via its Instant Watch feature.

    1. Janko Roettgers KB Thursday, March 17, 2011

      Hah, that’s a good point. Hadn’t even thought about this use case.

  3. Um, I’m an OU student and our network didn’t go down. Thanks for playing though.

    1. It crashed twice that night. At 2AM and 3AM. Both were for short periods of times, just because you didn’t notice doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

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