While schools such as Northwestern, Oregon State and the University of Washington have banned traffic from some Internet sites in an attempt to reduce the strain on their networks, Harvard says it has no plans to follow suit.
"We are not considering bandwidth limiting at present," says Faculty of Arts and Sciences Director of Computer Services Franklin M. Steen. "We're trying to build up the bandwidth to accommodate the demand."
The most commonly cited consumer of bandwith is Napster, a company whose software allows users to search a growing community of other computers for music files in MP3 format.
Napster's software turns users' machines into servers--allowing other users to access the MP3 files on their computers.
While the MP3 format compresses CD-quality music into files that are generally between two and five megabytes in size, this traffic is more than enough to put a strain on a school's resources.
According to Northwestern Director of Information Technology Communications Susan C. Andrews, Northwestern first experienced a sharp increase in network usage early last fall.
After installing extra bandwidth, the school was still unable to meet demand, and decided to ban traffic from the Napster web site, which is necessary for that company's application to work.
"It was taking up 20-plus percent of our network traffic," Andrews says. "We found that, at any point in the day, Napster was in the top five sites hit."
At Oregon State, growth in network usage was doubling every 90 days, prompting Associate Provost Curt Pederson to ban Napster-related traffic.
Steen says that similar problems with Napster have not been encountered here at Harvard--where network usage doubles about every year.
"We've been on the outlook for it for well over a month and haven't found any problems with it," Steen says.
Furthermore, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 says that there are no plans to ban Internet sites based on content.
"I should think that content filtering would be wholly incompatible with the principle of free inquiry and open access to information," Lewis wrote in an e-mail message.