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Smartphones, NetFlix Having Biggest Impact on ResNet

For the first time, smartphones top the list for having the greatest potential impact on bandwidth consumption on campus, surpassing desktop computers and laptops. In a survey on residential networks ("ResNets"), respondents consisting of IT, housing and business people at colleges and universities were asked to rate a list of devices from 1 to 10 based on the impact each could have on bandwidth consumption for the ResNet in coming years. A rating of 1 represented the smallest bandwidth consumer; 10 was the largest. The researchers then tabulated the "severity" percentages for each device by the respondents who gave ratings between 8 and 10 for each device.

iPhones and Androids were rated as the most severe among 73 percent of survey participants, an 11 percentage point jump over 2017. Desktop computers and laptops came in second, referenced by 65 percent. And smart TVs were third, designated by 59 percent, up from sixth place last year.

Where campus people have calmed way down is in their concerns about the impact of newer consumer technologies like remote control vehicles such as drones (down from 30 percent last year to 5 percent this year), wearable educational technology such as virtual reality headsets and smart watches (down to 7.5 percent this year from 29 percent last year), wearable medical electronic devices (which dropped from 27.5 percent in 2017 to 3 percent in 2018) and wearable fitness trackers (down from 27 percent in 2017 to 6 percent this year).

The survey was conducted from January through March 2018 by the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I). This is the seventh annual study to take the pulse of ResNet practices and policies in higher education. A total of 435 respondents representing 312 institutions participated in the 2018 survey.

While ResNets officially provide internet, cable, phone services, IPTV and more to students living on campus, what they really appear to do is serve up a steady dose of TV and video consumption and, particularly, NetFlix. That was referenced as the "biggest [content] threat" to bandwidth capacity by 88 percent of respondents. No. 2 was "web-based rich content" (another name for video), video gaming, and music and audio (especially internet radio and Pandora). Online learning tools and interactive digital textbooks were viewed as threats by only 33 percent and 14 percent of survey participants, respectively.

Even as non-educational activities are on the rise on the campus network, so are policies to "block, rate, limit and prioritize applications." This year 41 percent of respondents said their schools shape and limit bandwidth by protocol, up from 31 percent in 2017; 44 percent block activities such as peer-to-peer sharing and music downloading, up from 34 percent last year. The researchers noted that colleges managing ResNet in-house are more likely to control bandwidth (73 percent), and schools that outsource ResNet and internet (45.5 percent) are less likely to require bandwidth management.

Nearly all respondents, no matter what their institutional role, view a "high-performing" ResNet as essential for attracting and keeping students on campus. Those in housing placed the greatest value on a quality ResNet, with 96 percent rating it as "very important." Among technology respondents, 92 percent said the same, as did 90 percent of business officers.

Perhaps that focus on competitive advantage explains in part why mid-size budgets have increased so dramatically over the year. While fewer schools in 2018 have budgets related to the ResNet that exceed $2.5 million (13 percent this year vs. 20 percent last year), the share of institutions with budgets between $750,000 and $2.5 million has more than doubled, from 25 percent to 52 percent over the same period.

The report and an infographic that summarizes results are openly available on the ACUHO-I website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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