In response to a continuing stream of on-campus resident complaints of snail-pace Internet traffic, UCSB’s Housing and Residential Services has taken several steps since summer to plug students in to quicker connections and curb adverse effects of online file sharing.

In Fall Quarter, the campus-wide Information Technology Planning Group approved a Housing and Residential Services proposal to increase the residence halls’ bandwidth – the capacity for a network to carry data – from 10 megabits to 20 megabits, said George Gregg, assistant Housing and Residential Services director.

Gregg said the campus has a 622-megabit connection to CalRenII – an Internet network run between a consortium of universities in California, including the UC system, Stanford and USC and other private institutions. ResNet traffic flows onto CalRenII through a border router, Gregg said, which uses 10 Mbits for residence hall Internet traffic out of the 622 Mbits available to the campus. He added that UCSB is charged for any Net traffic going outside of campus through the CalRenII gateway to the Internet, and that Housing and Residential Services pays for residents’ proportion of this fee.

“We needed to increase the bandwidth because we were getting a lot of complaints from the students, so we attacked it on several different fronts. One of the fronts was getting approval to increase the speed of our feed into CalRenII,” Gregg said.

Another part of the system upgrade was the purchasing of a “packeteer box,” which ResNet installed in December. The box, located between ResNet and the feed to the CalRenII, prioritizes campus Net traffic, placing connections to music and video file sharing sites such as and lower than e-mail or other HTML Web traffic.

“Basically, it manages traffic better – it’s like stoplights. It prioritizes traffic, which has made traffic go faster,” said Assistant ResNet Coordinator Maria Chanley, UCSB’s only full-time, nonstudent ResNet staff member. “It’s a whole new way of managing bandwidth.”

Before packeteering, which Chanley said close to 150 universities across the country have purchased to control residence hall Internet traffic, many students could not even check their e-mail because Napster alone took up all 10 Mbits of bandwidth.

“One student was caught [about two months ago] using 26 percent of all ResNet bandwidth, so one person was using one quarter of all the bandwidth for 4,200 students. I don’t know where we would be without [packeteering]. We could have gotten 50 or 60 megabits, and it wouldn’t make a difference,” Chanley said. “It’s made complaints – from a scale of one to 10 – from an 11 to a one. Mostly the people who complain are your die-hard computer performance guys who are always in their rooms doing complex things with the network, and they’ll complain about speed. Ninety-nine percent of our complaints have dissipated because it has made everything speed up a lot better. It uses bandwidth a lot more effectively, so it has made the network quicker.”

Since last summer, ResNet has also changed hub connections to switches in all university-owned housing except San Rafael, El Dorado and Westgate, which are scheduled for upgrades this summer. Switches are much faster than hubs, because with a switch each user has a 20 Mbit connection, as opposed to previously sharing one 10 Mbit connection with a hub.

“It used to be a whole floor would share a hub and now we have a separate switch, so the traffic stream is separately managed,” Gregg said. “So instead of collisions taking place amongst anybody in a floor, it’s being switched now so that the traffic is delivered to the higher speed switches without contention.”

Sophomore electrical engineering major Carl VanArsdall, a San Miguel resident who last year worked as a resident computer consultant, said that since the packeteering box was installed, Napster file transferring has slowed to the point where, “I can’t even get a song.” He said Napster posed a problem to the university since the university pays for every bit of information sent over the Internet.

“They want the students to have plenty of bandwidth to work with, not for people to goof off, and that’s the biggest issue with Napster,” he said.

VanArsdall, who helped install the switches in the residence halls in August, said the university also implemented a cable-modem project in Family Student Housing.

“Eventually, all the dorms will catch up with the technology,” he said. “It’s pretty much preparing for the really big jump [in speed], which I think will come in the future. That freshman class is going to have one hell of a connection – but I don’t know how long that’ll be.”