Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth…

By Camalita Naicker and Meggan McCarthy

Everybody is talking about bandwidth and with more students threatening to protest if Facebook was blocked than about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, an investigation was done to find some answers.

Guy Halse, Systems Manager of the IT Division, says the main problem is that South Africa does not have enough bandwidth. The R3 million Rhodes University currently spends on bandwidth (2% of its annual budget) is not sufficient to meet their demand; however in Europe one could buy 20 times the amount of bandwidth for the same price.

Universities are the second-largest consumers of bandwidth in the country, however, out of all of them, Rhodes is the only institution which offers students a transfer rate of 1.32kbps (kilobits per second) per student which is 3 times faster than our neighbour NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) which has 15 000 students.

Due to the amount of users on recreational sites, such as Facebook, there is not enough bandwidth to go around. Instead of dropping student quotas the IT Division decided to raise awareness in the form of notices that come up when one visits these sites. Halse says that the IT Division could have blocked some recreational sites but they are “pro giving users the choice to make their own decisions.” So the amount of time you spend on these sites, are entirely up to you.

 While students at Rhodes struggle to save bandwidth and live within their quotas the digital divide (access to broadband) grows between Africa and the rest of the world. At Oxford University the daily quota for students is 2GB (gigabytes) per day.

Halse says that by next year Rhodes will have 1.5 times as much bandwidth as it has now. However, whilst this will help it will not solve the current problem as it is estimated that Rhodes needs five to six times more bandwidth to meet its academic research needs.

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