Students have expressed their shock this week at OUCS’s decision to ban the popular music sharing website Spotify.
The University’s computing services, OUCS, attributed the ban to the excessive bandwidth that the program requires, especially when so many people are using it.
The decision has not gone down well with students. “I was shocked when I realised there was a total ban,” said Finola Holyoak, a first-year student at Lincoln.
Students were baffled when Spotify suddenly stopped working, and no explanation was sent out as to why such a popular site was banned. A second-year Economics and Management student describing it as “discrimination against music lovers… I hoped that it was a technical glitch, and that the university would be able to fix it. I never realised it was against the rules.”
The University website states that “…the unauthorised use of peer-to-peer resource-sharing software on machines connected to the Oxford University Network is prohibited.”
However, there are inconsistencies in the ban, as some students are still able to use Spotify in their colleges, whereas others cannot. In many colleges, students are able to access it via wireless, and in some it is even possible through the ethernet connection.
A second-year law student at Magdalen said, “plenty of my friends still use Spotify, and to be honest I can see nothing wrong with that – it’s not as if every single person is on it every single hour of the day.”
Another first-year music student argued that the site was a valuable research for his degree. “I use it loads. It’s the most comprehensive collection of classical music in one place. Much better than Naxos,” he said.
Spotify, although legal, falls into the category of a ‘peer-to-peer resource-sharing software’. This means that the music is not located in a central memory bank, but rather on each user’s computer and the software allows users to share their music libraries with all other users.
OUCS claims that the problem with allowing peer-to-peer software is that it requires an enormous bandwidth (the amount of data that can be sent and received on one connection).
OUCS explains that, “Bandwidth that seems insignificant for one user will soon add up when scaled up to the many thousands of users connected to Oxford University’s networks. It is one thing attempting to justify a network upgrade on the basis of a genuine academic requirement, such as the petabytes of data expected from CERN when their latest collider comes online.”
“Taxpayers and research councils tend to like to see their money being spent more wisely”, said one college IT Manager. He said that unlike a host of other sites which use up a lot of bandwidth, Spotify cannot be justified as being educational.
Dr. Stuart Lee, Director of Computing Systems and Support at OUCS, did not wish to comment.