March Madness online streaming taxes campus networks

The university saw a 30-percent jump in bandwidth usage during the second day of March Madness.

Edward Tracey, UD’s associate vice president for IT, said the university increased its bandwidth in December – a fortuitous network boost, it turns out.

“The timing of our entry into the tournament fits well, because we had a little room to work with,” Tracey said, adding that UD doubles its bandwidth capabilities every two years.

Tracey didn’t expect to encounter any bandwidth issues when the No. 15 seed UD men’s basketball team played the No. 2 seed Jayhawks because the game would be played at 10 p.m. Eastern time. Besides housing for some international students, UD doesn’t have a large on-campus community, so the university would be largely empty by tip-off against Kansas.

The insatiable need for more bandwidth, Tracey said, has been evident as student expectations have changed, meaning no bandwidth increase will ever be enough.

“Everyone expects everything to be taped and made available to view online,” he said. “And as the fishbowl grows bigger, the fish get bigger.”

Marquette dealt with the IT strains of March Madness in 2003, when the Golden Eagles made an underdog run to the Final Four. That year, the university upgraded the school’s hardware to handle the new traffic flooding its servers.

When Gonzaga University grabbed national attention during an unlikely 1999 tournament run, IT staffers saw visits to the school’s website triple and decided to move the web server off campus to another service provider that could handle the sudden increase.

Simmons said Marquette IT officials wouldn’t combine the campus’s internet capabilities when students return from spring break March 19. If a full complement of students maxes out the campus network with streaming of the Golden Eagles’ games, Simmons said the IT department would find a way to cope.

“If they choose to stream the basketball game, so be it,” she said. “Marquette does not block any sites at all – ever.”

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