Purdue University to block streaming sites in classrooms

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Purdue University is moving to block Netflix and other popular streaming services in classrooms, an attempt to focus on academics while reducing the university’s broadband usage.

Purdue students returning from spring break on March 18 will no longer have access to bandwidth-consuming sites like movie and TV service Netflix, gaming site Steam and music streaming site Pandora, The Journal & Courierreported. Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, won’t be blocked.

“This is aimed at what’s considered recreational streaming,” said Julie Kercher-Updike, Purdue’s deputy chief information officer. “It’s really about making it so streaming doesn’t take away from giving academic resources first priority.”

The university will create designated spaces in academic buildings where students can access the streaming sites.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels launched efforts in 2018 to reduce the university’s broadband services, which had seen five times the consumption and prices double over four years.

The university conducted a week-long study of Wi-Fi traffic in two of its largest lecture halls and found that just 4 percent of data was downloaded from sites deemed “academic,” while 34 percent was from sites deemed “likely non-academic.”

“When it’s purely recreational, especially during class hours, I think it raises some questions,” Daniels said at the time.

The university tested filtering sites in the fall and spring and saw bandwidth usage drop. Blackboard, a university site used for assignments and grading, jumped from being the No. 78 most used site in one of the lecture halls to being ranked in the top 10, said Mark Sonstein, Purdue’s executive director of IT infrastructure services.

The pilot included information on how to file a complaint about the filtering, but the university received little criticism, said Kercher-Updike.

“We just have not seen the push back we thought we would see,” she said.

Michael Graham, a junior studying engineering, said he didn’t notice any changes to the class he had that experienced the test filtering.

“I’m not in there to watch movies or anything,” Graham said. “I really don’t know anyone else who does, either. … So, I guess I don’t have a problem with it.”