Sounds cool doesn’t it? Well it is, BUT it’s not for everyone. Why? Because we only have enough bandwidth to support a few simultaneous streams before they start to have an impact on other campus users. We currently have 6 Mb/s of connectivity to the Internet. (4 - “T1” circuits). This provides responsive web browsing for 1200+ networked computers located both here and at Lake Forest Park. This same bandwidth will only support twelve concurrent video streams. Our typical daily average usage will only allow two streams to run before performance is affected college wide.
Streaming video is much more sensitive to network traffic loads than standard web traffic. When our bandwidth usage reaches capacity, web pages come up slower, but the content is still there. A video stream, on the other hand, becomes choppy as frames are skipped. Streaming audio is even more sensitive to delays, becoming totally useless if any of the content is missing. For this reason streaming video and audio must run at a higher priority than other traffic. This causes a dilemma. A few users accessing streaming content over the Internet can cause severe network slow downs for the entire campus.
What is the solution? Adding capacity is the obvious remedy but bandwidth is expensive, and at what gain? Each additional T-1 only allows for three simultaneous streams and still the problem remains. When the forth video stream starts up, all the streams slow down, web traffic slows down and registration comes to a halt. Extracurricular instances of streaming content exacerbate the problem. Students are watching music videos in the labs and staff are listening to Internet radio broadcasts in their offices. All these add up and when the bandwidth is gone, it’s gone. An instructor that wishes to share an online presentation with their class can not be guaranteed that the bandwidth will be available. The use of streaming video for online courses is not feasible given our current bandwidth situation.
In the meantime TSS is managing bandwidth with the technology that we have available. It is everyone’s responsibility to use bandwidth efficiently. We do not currently have the resources to support streaming content to or from the Internet as part of any curriculum. We need to educate staff about appropriate vs. inappropriate use of streaming content. It may be necessary to restrict access to streaming content in order to assure that bandwidth is available for curricular uses. Contact Gary Kalbfleisch of TSS if you have any comments about this subject or if you are interested in helping to find a long term solution to this problem.