No Block On MP3 Downloads Planned

House list e-mails claiming Oct. 15 shutdown date were inaccurate

Despite messages on House e-mail lists yesterday warning of an imminent block on MP3 downloading, University computer officials said no such plans have been finalized.

According to Assistant Provost Daniel D. Moriarty, chief information officer for the University, no new action has yet been taken by any University component to limit student access to file sharing software, such as Kazaa or Morpheus.

Rumors spread as an e-mail from within the Medical School was forwarded by various students in the College.

“A decision was made at yesterday’s Network Advisory Group in Cambridge to block peer-to-peer based applications,” claimed the e-mail, which added that access to these services would be cut off around Oct. 15.

The information contained in that e-mail, however, was untrue.

“It’s not accurate,” said Moriarty, “no decision has been made. [The e-mail] is just wrong.”

Nickolaos Pavlidis, a senior network analyst at the Medical School who was listed as the original author of the forwarded e-mail, said he was unfamiliar with any policy decisions on file sharing.

Moriarty added that the topic of limiting network bandwidth did arise at a recent meeting of the Network Advisory Group, which consists of network personnel from each of Harvard’s component schools.

Individually, the schools set policies to regulate their own bandwidth, which is then implemented by University Information Services (UIS).

UIS does not set campus-wide policy and campus-wide action would occur only with concerted actions by the individual schools.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ (FAS) network, which serves the College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Law School, has restricted uploads from its network since February 2001.

Despite these restrictions, those using the FAS network still have the ability to use file sharing software.

Moriarty said similar action is under consideration at other Harvard schools, but no decisions have been made.

The topic is scheduled to be revisited at a meeting of the University Technology Architecture Group on Oct. 18. This group makes policy recommendations to the University as a whole, but each school ultimately decides how it will proceed.

The talk of limiting uploads from campus computers over file sharing networks stems from constraints on the capacity of Harvard’s computer networks. Upload limits could help reducing bandwidth growth, keeping down costs.

“These [file sharing] programs can literally drain the network bandwidth,” said Kevin S. Davis ’98, director of residential computing for Harvard Arts and Sciences Computer Services.