Students can conceivably still stream Netflix and Hulu while in class at Purdue University, but they’ll have to gobble up untold gigabytes of their own cellular data to do it.
The school’s IT team wants faculty and students using Wi-Fi for academic purposes to have fast and reliable service in all classrooms. It has blocked those two sites—along with Apple updates, iTunes, Pandora, iHeartRadio, HBO and Steam—from classroom Wi-Fi.
No restrictions have been placed on Wi-Fi use in residence halls, the student union or other non-academic buildings, Mark Sonstein, the university’s executive director of IT infrastructure services.
“These sites were primary consumers of available bandwidth in the classrooms,” Sonstein says. “We had feedback that the wireless was not reliable enough to leverage for more academic purposes.”
When users try to access Netflix in a classroom, they land on a page that tells them the site is blocked—so they know the Wi-Fi isn’t down. The page asks for feedback, but Sonstein says there have been few complaints. The IT team also has not found any negative responses on Reddit pages where students are sometimes prone to criticize the university, he adds.
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Students waiting between classes can still access the streaming sites via a separate “recreational” Wi-Fi network that serves common areas of some academic buildings.
The goal is not so much about eliminating streaming as it is about preventing Wi-Fi congestion. “If a user is able to pick up the recreational network by sitting way up in the corner of a classroom, that’s not our focus,” Sonstein says. “The focus is that students can connect to an access point that’s dedicated to academic purposes, and they will get a good solid connection and decent speeds to do their work.”
The IT team allows exceptions to the filtering when faculty request access to the blocked sites for teaching reasons, Sonstein says.
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Purdue appears to be one of the few universities to block sites in classrooms, Sonstein says. But because filtering is not a heavy technological lift—many K12 schools do it, for instance—others colleges and universities could soon follow suit. “No other Big 10 schools are doing it but they’re very interested in the outcome here,” he says.