Bandwidth demand straining college budgets

Twenty-seven percent of institutions said they capped the number of devices a student can connect to the campus network at five.

Half of college IT departments pay for broadband internet service in campus residential areas and don’t recover the costs, while six in 10 students said they would consider moving to off-campus housing if web speeds lagged.

New statistics showing how spiking broadband demand has impacted campus IT departments were included in an infographic created by, a site that tracks technology use in education.

Half of campuses included in a survey said the money spent on satiating students’ broadband needs for their laptops, smart phones, tablet computers, and video game consoles is never recovered through tuition or student fees.

But even that financial sacrifice hasn’t satisfied students bringing upwards of five web-connected devices to campus every semester. Nearly three in four college students said wireless internet coverage is still a “significant issue” on campuses.

Despite the proliferation of broadband web access, colleges and universities are still restricting how much bandwidth students can consume in a day, week, or month. Three in 10 schools included in the OnlineColleges infographic said they did not offer unlimited bandwidth to students.

Read more about bandwidth demand in higher education…

March Madness online streaming taxes campus networks

Campuses look to ‘dark fiber’ for connectivity

Twenty-seven percent of institutions said they capped the number of devices a student can connect to the campus network at five. One in five campuses limit bandwidth consumed by smart phones and tablets.

Nine in 10 IT decision makers who responded to a March ACUTA survey of 249 U.S. campuses said tablets were likely to consume the most bandwidth in coming years. This has prompted 19 percent of schools in the ACUTA survey to impose restrictions on the number of mobile devices a single student can connect to the campus’s network.

“There is an expectation right now among students of, ‘Any device, any time, as much as we want,’” said Joe Harrington, ACUTA president and director of network services at Boston College (BC). “This has [IT officials] back on their heels a little bit, looking for ways to deal with this proactively rather than reactively.”

Instituting strict limitations on how much broadband a student can consume has brought significant savings to some schools in recent years. The University of Washington first put the brakes on students’ bandwidth usage in 2002, when the school saved more than $1 million by instituting the rules.

Only a sliver of colleges provide students with ultra-high speed networks of more than two gigabits per second. Seven percent of schools reported those high speeds, while 30 percent said their networks provided 100-500 megabits per second. Twenty-nine percent said their networks ran at 1-100 megabits per second.

Many schools keep a close eye on bandwidth usage during major collegiate sporting events, particularly the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, or March Madness, when students stream live contests on their various mobile devices.

There were 26.7 million unique visitors to the NCAA March Madness Live online streaming service in 2011, according to a report from Turner Sports Media, up from only 2 million viewers in 2007. Viewers streamed more than 10 million hours of online video during last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Viewers watching March Madness games on an Apple iPhone or iPad accounted for 36 percent of all live streaming, according to the NCAA. All this while TV viewership jumped 15 percent in 2011.

Student expectations of instantaneous and uninterrupted streaming of sporting events has largely driven the constant need for more bandwidth capacity on U.S. campuses, said Edward Tracey, the University of Detroit’s associate vice president for IT

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

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