Piracy complaints prompt campus internet changes

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By October of this year, the University had received 638 complaints of copyright violations from recording industries, and still rising. The number of complaints in 2010 reached as high as 878.

Piracy attempts through UAA's wi-fi are increasing

As a result of the complaints, the Information and Technology Services department decided to start limiting Internet access across campus. The changes are set to take place within the next two weeks. The department was frustrated with the high number of piracy complaints and the failure to remediate violators.

IT released a statement in late October explaining, “over 90% of the copyright violation complaints received by UAA each quarter are found to involve student housing dorm room network access.”  Consequently, most of the adjustments will be geared towards the housing community.

UAA has worked together with the Recording Industry Association of America to catch and punish violators. The last two years have not seen any improvements.

To combat violators, IT will reduce network speed access to 2 Mb/s in housing complexes and block certain media sharing websites. These adjustments are meant to cut down on the number of complaints centered on obtaining or distributing music, video, or software illegally.

The new revisions will not inhibit students’ access to the Internet for educational purposes, IT claims.

But George Brandenburg, a full-time student at UAA, says otherwise. In recent weeks, he has started and led an effort to voice the opinions of students unhappy with the changes.

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IT distributed an email to all residential students on October 27th notifying them of the changes.

Shortly after receiving the email, Brandenburg and other students started experiencing difficulties accessing the Internet; especially legitimate streaming websites such as Netflix.

Shortly after Branenburg read the email, he began to notice difficulties accessing the Internet.

“About that time, the Internet was having a lot of problems on campus that it had never had before,” Brandenburg explained. “A lot of people were having trouble accessing basic web pages.”

Brandenburg then kicked off the Facebook group Take The Internet Back, which has now swelled to over 130 members. He also started emailing Rich Whitney, the vice provost of IT Services. What he learned was surprising to him and his group. The proposed changes had not actually gone into effect yet. But Brandenburg still felt there was something wrong.

“We don’t exactly have a problem to pinpoint, we just know something is wrong,” he said. “It’s obvious that the Internet isn’t what it was before.”

Brandenburg and the members of Take The Internet Back started sending a stream of emails to IT Services and Whitney detailing the importance of reliable Internet access in their lives and asking what the problem was.

Whitney responded in an email to the group saying, “Basically, there is nothing different for your wired access today than there was 2 weeks ago. We have not yet implemented rate throttling although we notified the community of our intent to do so.” Whitney further went on to explain that sites such as NetFlix, Hulu, and other legitimate streaming websites would work just fine on the 2Mb/s speed that was proposed – addressing a big concern of the group members.

The group realized the impact the piracy complaints had on IT’s decision, yet most believed it to be unfair.

“I felt they were punishing us all for the actions of a few,” Brandenburg said. Many members of the group voiced similar opinions. Another main concern was receiving the service that students pay fees towards, which can be up to $60 a semester.

Take The Internet Back and Whitney are still discussing solutions, and a Discussion Board on the Facebook page has been created for students to attempt to resolve the situation.

In another statement to the group, Whitney advised, “I would strongly suggest that you not jump to conclusions about what these changes mean to you on a practical basis. We will continue to monitor the situation but believe those students who have legitimate needs for Internet access from dorm rooms will see absolutely no impact.”

After such discussions with Whitney, Brandenburg, decided to tone down the fervor and focus on the issue at hand.

“We’re still taking it professionally, trying to see if it’s an ACS problem, if it’s a campus problem,” Brandenburg said. But the problem still remains.

“I don’t know anyone right now who is happy with the Internet.”