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Campus ResNet Services Under Strain

Universities are facing increasing demands for Internet service in student housing (ResNet) while coping with reduced budgets and support staff, according to the first annual State of the ResNet report released by the Association of Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA).

The 2012 report analyzes survey results from 249 universities and colleges across the United States. The survey covered four categories: residential computer network structure; network infrastructure (present and future); service, support, and staffing; and fees and budgets.

The survey found that increasing use of high-bandwidth services and connected devices are major concerns for campus IT administrators and that many institutions may soon be forced to invest in substantial upgrades, particularly to their dense-capacity wireless coverage, at a time when budgets are tight and staff is limited.

Findings from the survey:

  • 68 percent of institutions allow students unlimited connectivity to the residential network;
  • 62 percent do not monitor individual bandwidth consumption;
  • 50 percent of IT departments pay for bandwidth supplied to the residential networks but do not recover the cost;
  • 59 percent provide less than 500 Mbps of bandwidth;
  • 19 percent of universities and colleges limit bandwidth to mobile and network devices, and in most cases these devices share bandwidth with desktop and laptop computers;
  • 9 percent offer 24/7 network support;
  • 90 percent of institutions provide campus residents with cable or satellite TV and also provide bandwidth for video-on-demand services such as Hulu and Netflix; and
  • 9 percent currently outsource any significant portions of their residential network, although an increasing number of CIOs are considering this option.

"An unprecedented perfect storm is forming on the horizon of network technology while IT budgets tighten across the country," said Joseph Harrington, ACUTA president and director of networking at Boston College in a prepared statement. "In this changing environment, efficient management of the ResNet is fast becoming a top priority for CIOs."

A total of 255 surveys were completed, representing 249 higher education institutions (six with two respondents) that provide provide on-campus housing for students. Of the respondents, 51.8 percent were from private organizations and 48.2 percent from public institutions. The results are considered accurate within plus or minus 5.7 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.

ACUTA reported it plans to conduct the survey annually to "measure the broad variation in practice and policy within higher education and lay the groundwork for long-term trend analysis and benchmarking."

ACUTA is an international nonprofit educational association serving colleges and universities for the purpose of supporting higher education information communications technology professionals. ACUTA represents nearly 2,000 individuals at more than 700 higher education institutions of all types and sizes.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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