The University of Oxford, one of the most advanced both academically and technologically in the world, has banned on-campus students accessing peer-to-peer based Spotify, citing network difficulties and bandwidth issues.
Although the software has been banned due to it using peer-to-peer technology, including others such as Skype, Steam, previously BBC iPlayer and even Microsoft Office Groove, the university has forcefully plugged the firewalls to disable the service from working.
The Register points out two important points. Firstly, as Spotify is a free service which they can no longer access, this may resort in students landing the university itself into trouble by downloading music illegally. Secondly:
"Spotify was devised to help network operators by saving them money [using P2P technology]. For example, if 2,000 Oxford students are expressing their individuality by all listening to the same Radiohead track, they will be listening to bits pulled off each other's computers."
One of the IT managers working at OUCU, the computing services department at the university, justified the actions taken by stating that "Spotify cannot be justified as being educational". While a first-year music student counteracts the argument by claiming that Spotify is one of his "most valuable research assets".
This raises questions, of which the student union cannot address as the university is decentralised in a college system, by removing access to "student essential" applications such as Skype; software which enables free PC-to-PC calling for keeping in touch with the family away from home.
All colleges and universities in the UK are centrally managed and provided by JANET, the UK's dedicated academic ISP. However, as a very academia-focused university, it seems they are willing to sacrifice student lifestyle and downtime in favour for academic achievement, unlike my university.
The director of computing systems at Oxford University declined to comment on the story.
Is this fair? Should Oxford have consulted the students first? Are they trying to restrict downtime? Should they just upgrade their systems to maintain current trends? Om nom nom the comment goblins.