College Internet Filters

I’ve had the blessing of attending two universities. The first school was situated on acres of campus along the Californian coast. The second school was built from the ground up exactly like a corporate skyscraper. Both schools offered a structured internet for students and faculty. Classes often revolve around media originating on the internet, so it makes sense to leave it up to the school for access. Both schools have descent servers but one key difference when signing into the respective schools: filters.

my first school: a community college sprawled across a mile of beachfront

Filters keep the school servers free from inappropriate, harmful, and illegal content. The first school kept filters pretty simple by only blocking blacklisted sites. The second school went on to block streaming content from anything but YouTube and other social media communities. I found it odd that music streaming applications were blocked. I discovered the reason they were blocked was to keep the server free from clogging bandwidth it takes to stream media. My first mental argument was along the lines of, “doesn’t video require more bandwidth than music?” Yes, it does take a ton more bandwidth to stream video- especially high definition content. Then I realized the faculty used YouTube videos in class almost daily. (Keep in mind all other video content providers are blocked, such as Vimeo, Netflix, Twitch, etc.)

my second school: a business college situated in a new skyscraper

I hate double standards, but I wonder what it was like in the meeting where the school executives sit and decide on what content remains within reach. Obviously I appreciate the first school’s approach to filtering their server, but I would love the opportunity to persuade the executives at the second school to ease up on access to some content they filter out as soon as they upgrade their infrastructure to output one gigabit per second.

That’s the real problem with college servers: slow/weak internet. It’s fair to say that’s an American problem. Most Americans have speeds ranging between ten to fifty megabits per second. Schools are typically sitting at the baseline despite being one of the places that really need the best infrastructure. I doubt American students will see colleges upgrading their servers to stronger/faster speeds anytime soon. Most schools will be solar powered before that happens.

What can anyone do about it? There will always be people smart enough to find a loophole like anonymity site and proxy servers, but those aren’t the most reliable or secure workarounds. The only simple solution is to rely on cellular data to avoid hitting a wall. Hopefully the future is kind to colleges really in need of descent internet access because after all, this is just a first world problem with a simple expensive fix.

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