College students across the country are protesting the decisions of several universities to block access from university accounts to Napster.com, a Web site that allows users to download music from other personal computers.
Officials at several schools, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Indiana and San Diego University, have blocked access to the site because of the high amount of traffic it produces on their networks.
Napster.com allows its users to download MP3 and compressed audio files for use on personal computers. It is different from other MP3 sites because at Napster.com, users download the files from other users' computers instead of a central server.
Officials at universities that have banned the site assert the traffic of incoming and outgoing files caused by Napster.com clog up their networks. As a result, the universities put a block on the site, preventing students from accessing it from the schools' networks.
Greg Jackson, chief information officer at the University of Chicago, said the use of Napster.com "deprived other users of their fair share of the network."
The problem Napster.com has created at other universities is that it uses up bandwidth, the amount of space available for information to be sent out and received on a network.
Although Napster.com has created "traffic jams" on the networks at several other universities, it has not been a problem at Iowa State, said Pete Siegel, director of Academic Information Technology.
"We have students who use the site, but the load on our network attributed to Napster is not significant on campus," he said.
Siegel said ISU students do not appear to be using Napster.com as much as students at the universities where the site has been blocked.
"We have seen that our students and faculty use our network very effectively," he said. "They have lots of legitimate uses for our network."
If the load from Napster.com on Iowa State's network was to rise to levels similar to those seen at the universities where it has been banned, Siegel said he hoped the site wouldn't have to be blocked.
"At these universities where the site has been blocked, students have worked out ways to get around the blocks," he explained. "It's a cat-and-mouse game. I'm not sure that blocking the site is a very effective use of time and effort for these schools."
Siegel said he hoped ISU administrators would instead take a different approach if Napster.com started creating problems.
"We are trying to provide the resources people need from our network and make sure that there is effective use of the resources," he said. "Before we did anything to impact the use of Napster.com, we would contact the company and try to work with them to fix the problem."
Jackson said that if students at the University of Chicago bypass the filters and continue to access Napster.com, they could face "disciplinary action."
Siegel said he would like to avoid the same problem at Iowa State.
"Our goal is to have students using the network effectively for educational purposes and sharing thoughts and ideas with friends and relatives," he said. "Our students are doing that, and I think that's a great thing."