Just Cut Us Off

As we progress further into the 21st century, the idea of a bandwidth limit is utterly absurd. The Acceptable Use of Technology policy at Phillips Academy is significantly outdated and fundamentally unjust in its enforcement. The current bandwidth limit of one gigabyte per week needs to be increased (if not abolished) and violation of the bandwidth rule should be responded to with a cease of use for the rest of the week and not an extended punishment. Most students arrive at Phillips Academy without any idea what bandwidth is in the first place. During the first week that the bandwidth limit was enforced this year, October 1-7, 208 students, more than one-fourth of the boarding population, went over the limit. Nearly a third of new boarders were accountable for this incident, which was undoubtedly the largest collective, unintentional breaking of a rule in the Academy’s history. The worst part about this massive rule breaking was that it was not a demonstration, but rather an accident. Few, if any, students knew that they were actually breaking a rule. Bandwidth monitors, which the school neither provides nor requires, are sometimes faulty, as some students had monitors that contradicted the accusations against them. In this day and age, the idea that the Internet should be used exclusively for academic purposes is absurd. Nowadays, we do everything online. We buy things on Amazon and eBay. We watch videos on YouTube and We legally download music and TV shows from iTunes and read the news on the BBC and ESPN. Things that we used to accomplish by watching TV (and perhaps going to music stores) are accomplished with the Internet in a fraction of the time. Although the Internet was once a web of information limited to academics, it is now by far the best and easiest way to access an increasingly wide range of information of all kinds. The Internet today is hardly the same as it was in 2003, particularly in terms of standards of bandwidth usage. Many websites are beginning to use increasingly excessive amounts of bandwidth without any notice to users, such as, which automatically streams a video in the corner of the screen on its homepage. I just recently exceeded the bandwidth limit not because of YouTube, iTunes or “the porn,” but because of a Flash-based news website called Newser, which apparently sucks bandwidth like it is its job. Reading the news, amongst other things, is hardly an indulgent use of the Internet, although some indulgences are much more convenient through the Internet. Today’s Internet lets your entertainment needs work around your schedule. NBC recently put a large selection of their shows on their website, making them accessible at any time of day. So why should the cult of The Office fans at Andover have to watch the weekly episode on TV on Thursday night, the night when they have the most work, if they can watch it on their computers on Friday night? Students who violate the bandwidth limit are hardly bad people; they may just be using their time more logically. But when they do break the rules, they are treated with harsh punishments. When students go over bandwidth, they pay a fat price: one week without Internet for the first offense, two for the second and so on in increasingly harsh increments. There is no reason why students who use their allotted amount of bandwidth cannot simply be cut off immediately, until the next week begins. The system should operate the same way as minutes on a prepaid cell phone. Our service should be terminated when we run out of minutes. What is the sense in letting us go over and charging us for it for no real benefit? Though many students come to Andover ignorant of what bandwidth is and without worries about “excessive” Internet usage, they are forced to change their habits to conform to a policy stuck in the past. Now, in the present, the Internet can justifiably be used for non-academic purposes. Even the news on the Internet is starting to change to more interactive media. Despite what the Technology Office may say, the fact that the average bandwidth used by a student is less than half a gigabyte does not mean that there is not a demand for more bandwidth. Two hundred and eight students, and everyone else who has gone over, can tell you that.