One of the perks of living on campus in dorms like Ondine or Goose Hollow is the available high-speed internet connection, a handy little service that allows you to waste your spare time at an exponentially more rapid rate than a mere dial-up connection. E-mail, online games, file transfers, instant-messenger conversations and, yes, even online research … for … school … are made vastly more efficient by this service. I have been a mostly satisfied T-line recipient since I moved to campus housing, thanks to all these reasons and to its reasonable price, $17.50 per month.
Recent developments, however, have brought into question whether everyone is really getting his or her money’s worth. Bandwidth for peer-to-peer file transfer programs like Kazaa and LimeWire has been cut dramatically. Supposedly it will be quicker for people to accomplish more vital tasks like those online research projects without a constant flood of Spice Girls (or whatever it is those crazy kids are listening to these days) MP3 files being downloaded with these peer-to-peer proggies and clogging up the lines.
Such programs have been increasingly popular lately, especially among college students, for trading mostly songs but also pictures, videos, games, etc. The connection is directly from one user to another – hence the term peer-to-peer – which means there is no central server like the old Napster’s that evil entities like the Recording Artists’ Association of America can sick their lawyers on. These programs rose to mainstream popularity in the wake of Napster’s demise, as a slightly less user-friendly but much more versatile way for people to have access to all the free music they wanted.
Peer-to-peer file sharing programs are also generally a lot faster to use because of this lack of a central server – or at least they were. Since the bandwidth limitations have been put into place, it can take several hours, sometimes even the better part of a day, to download an average-sized song off a program like LimeWire. In the past, five to 10 minute download times were typical. In order to get anything like a reasonable download time, you have to use alternate programs like Audiogalaxy or ask your crazy neighbor with the Star Trek T-shirt who never leaves his room to find it with some weird IRC client. Rest assured, the downloading of music will continue in some way or another. Or maybe *cough* we’ll all just start buying CDs again.
In my old dorms at Oregon State, there was a similar crackdown on free-range MP3s in college housing. Napster was totally blocked by the university almost a full year before it was shut down by the courts, for the same reason that limitations are now being placed on other services up here – it sucked too much fiber optic real estate away from more “legitimate” uses of an Internet connection. This was right during the peak of Metallica-fueled anti-MP3 hysteria. The student body made a lot of noise over the unfairness of it all and there was talk of some kind of legal action against the university, but in the end OSU got away with it. After all, the DSL connections in the dorm rooms down there were a free service provided to students by college housing.
Here at PSU, though, we pay for our high-speed connections and it seems that this would entitle us to some say in how we use them. So the statistics show that an inordinate amount of bandwidth is used for P2P file transfers? Well, that must be what most high-speed subscribers want to use it for. You would have to be pretty deaf not to be able to hear what the Voice of the Consumer is saying in this particular case. At the risk of sounding like a total hippie, hey, The Man, give us our songs back!