Listening to Enrique. Downloading Michael Jackson. Watching National Lampoon’s Animal House. All these activities on their own seem harmless, but add a computer-and the time it takes to download-and computer networks at Fairfield and other schools could face a potential crash.

In the past 10 years, Internet traffic has been a problem for everyone, but especially college campus servers. One of the villains: MP3s, digital music files compressed to one-twelfth the size of a normal CD. Some schools have banned students from downloading. Fairfield has not – so far.

“A resident’s room is a student’s personal home. So for us to cut off [downloading] MP3 totally, I think, would be a mistake,” said Don Adams, director for Fairfield’s Computing and Network Services. “I certainly don’t think I’ve got the authority to do that. If the president of the university told me to do it, that’s a different situation.”

With so many MP3 programs available online and with more campuses upgrading dormitories with high-speed Internet connections, an increase in the amount of MP3s downloaded can have negative effects on campus servers, even that of Fairfield University’s own server.

“It could actually choke the network and shut off all [Internet] access to the dorms. It could absolutely saturate it,” said Adams.

According to Adams, the university utilizes blocking programs, called Network Monitoring Tools, but not specifically towards the downloading of MP3s.

“We could block anything we want,” said Adams. “Some SPAM sites we will block, but that’s as far as it goes.”

Fairfield students claim that at the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year, however, MP3 programs were being routinely blocked.

“They were at the beginning of the year, but I don’t think they are anymore,” said Jackie Acampora, ’06. “No one on campus could get Kazaa [a downloading program] or anything like that.”

Other students have turned to Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Networking to trade music and movie files. Under this system, individuals can establish the PC in their rooms as a server to exchange media files.

“That’s what really kills us,” said Adams with regard to P2P networking. By dialing into each other’s computers, students also tend to create a slower network for the rest of the university, in addition to placing increased stress on the network, stated Adams.

Some students have used P2P programs to download movies over the Internet.

“E-mail is fine [along with] passing assignments back and forth between students and professors, going to a professor’s Web page, using WebCT-things like that-using Campus Pipeline. That’s a whole different story than when you get into watching movies on your laptop or on your desktop,” Adams said.

However, with regard to the penalties imposed on students for excessive MP3 downloading, CNS has taken a more passive stance.

“We know there is traffic on the network, but it’s not our job to police that network quite honestly…We don’t have the staff to police that network,” said Adams.

Other campuses have imposed harsher punishments.

One student, Leslie Behrens, currently a sophomore at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ., recalled her experience in MP3 downloading:

“I downloaded some old school “M dot Jackson” [Michael Jackson] song and Sony traced my name to school,” said Behrens in an email. “And my Internet connection was taken away until I went to a meeting on campus to go over the rules of the school. And then I had to write a 3-page essay about copyright laws and the policy of the school regarding those laws.”

“It was Wack with a capital W,” she said. “But I stay downloading! Sony and U of A can’t hold me down!”

Media companies, such as TimeWarner, have actively pursued students engaging in illegal file sharing. At Johns Hopkins University, a freshman was reprimanded for sharing a copy of “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring,” over the Kazaa network, according to an article in “The Johns-Hopkins News-Letter.”

And while CNS cannot positively identify exactly which students are engaging in this P2P networking, they can determine what segment of the network it is originating from, said Adams.

CNS officials do not know exactly how much megabit usage could precipitate a network crash, since it has never occurred before, Adams said. Nevertheless, CNS is watchful for any swelling in activity that could lead to a system overload.

“We want to be sure that we’re probably not using more than about 65 to 75 percent of our capacity on the total network,” said Adams. “If we get above that-it’s risky running above that.”

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