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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Staff Editorial: Torrenting ban deserves dialogue

“Important Message: Guilford College does not endorse the Peer to Peer file sharing program you are running.”

Peer-to-peer file sharing is more commonly known as torrenting. Torrenting is a popular way of transferring just about anything and everything. Music, videos, games, books, blueprints, applications — you name it.

A study conducted by Canadian broadband management company Sandvine found that in 2012 during the peak hours of Internet usage torrenting accounted for 10.31 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic. In 2010 that number stood at 17.3 percent.

There’s no denying that torrenting takes up an incredibly significant amount of Internet bandwidth. The only user that takes up such a drastic portion of the Internet’s bandwidth is Netflix, which clocks in at a whopping 28.8 percent.

Over the past year, Guilford’s IT department has taken steps to keep Guilford’s aging network infrastructure up with the college’s ever-increasing data usage, from throttling the amount of bandwidth available for the streaming of Netflix during midterms and finals to installing a new firewall to handle more simultaneous connections.

However, this year Guilford has seemingly taken a more draconian attempt to manage Internet usage on campus. While the Network Acceptable Use Policy in the student handbook has prohibited peer-to-peer downloading, it hasn’t ever been outright blocked.

Why has Guilford chosen to target peer-to-peer file sharing? Is it taking up a massive amount of our broadband? Is it an attempt to foist morals upon students who wish to share copyrighted material?

Whatever the reason, it most certainly has students furrowing their brows and shaking their heads. However the consequences of this decision are more far-reaching than simply preventing students from accessing the unfiltered and ultra-convenient world of file sharing.

A fellow Guilfordian pointed out that with the new network guidelines she can no longer set up her wireless printer. A wireless printer sets up its own wireless connection which you then choose and print from–yet the new guidelines don’t let you set up alternate wireless connections.

It seems odd to go from loosely warning students about torrenting on page 29 in the student handbook to blocking any and all use of a peer-to-peer downloading program. If it were such a strain on the network, that would imply that it was something students cared about enough to use often.

Perhaps Guilford would be better off warning individual users who use inappropriate amounts of bandwidth instead of enforcing a complete ban on torrenting.

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    Craig R Gray (CIO)Sep 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Dear Guilfordian,

    We (IT&S) recognize the discomfort with having the use of torrents completely blocked. However, the reason for doing so is neither new nor about managing bandwidth.

    Every college and university in the United States is required to comply with provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act: which specifically demand making efforts to combat Peer to Peer file sharing using torrents and other illegal file sharing programs.

    In times past we were also continually responding to copyright violation notices from content providers and the RIAA. As the primary provider of Internet Service (ISP) to students we are obligated to combat illegal file sharing of copyrighted material. This was very time consuming, and meant tracking down IP addresses and users. However, with newer more sophisticated technology illegal file sharing programs can be shut down.

    The key to this discussion above is that sharing of copyrighted material is both illegal and unethical. Guilford is not alone in this endeavor as I mentioned above and we are required to do it. However, what is mostly unknown to the users of torrents is that it also opens your machines and devices up to hacking, back door intrusions and virus infiltration. By using a torrent you give permission for the internet at large to command and control your device.

    There are many legitimate means of sharing files as mentioned in your article provided by the institution–including but not limited to the Course Management System (Moodle), the Share drive and Google Drive to name a few.

    The wireless printing issues is unrelated to the blocking of illegal file sharing programs.

    Again, we recognize this is a popular genre of programs, but we are required to make every effort to block them. However, IT & S welcomes open dialogue on this and any variety of technological issues or suggestions affecting our students.

    Craig R. Gray
    Chief Information Officer
    Guilford College