The Internet has experienced explosive growth over the last few years with new and exciting applications being added to the already impressive list of applications.
Many of these applications are now considered essential; most could not do their jobs without them. Unfortunately, this has put considerable stress on UCT's Internet infrastructure, and necessitated a change in how UCT manages its bandwidth.
Managing the bandwidth should improve services associated with UCT core business, while restricting or denying non-essential services. ICTS recently acquired an application traffic management system, known as a PacketShaper, which can report on Internet bandwidth usage and reserve or restrict Internet access, based on characteristics of the Internet traffic (application, protocol, source and destination).
Currently, UCT uses the PacketShaper to reserve bandwidth for priority sites (the library), for general web access ("http" protocol), and to deny peer-to-peer access ("p2p" protocols).
In addition to managing the Internet bandwidth, ICTS began rolling out technology to monitor Internet traffic volumes in student labs in April this year. The critical word to note here is "volume": UCT is monitoring downloads in megabytes and not the content. Privacy of content in Internet and e-mail use is wholly - and constitutionally - protected for all UCT students and staff.
Pilot projects were conducted in student labs in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (engineering and CAD labs), the humanities faculty (language lab) and the Student Learning Centre on upper campus. From June, the technology was rolled out to other student labs across campus. When the rollout reaches a given lab, users will be alerted by a pop-up message on their computer screens as soon as they begin to surf the web. This sets out the university's policy, so that students can be fully aware of their rights and obligations in using the Internet and e-mail. Accepting the pop-up message will allow them to surf the web as usual; declining the message will make the Internet inaccessible.
At present, the technology rollout does not affect UCT staff. ICTS will give due warning to any affected faculty, department or other unit before enabling the technology, and will consult with staff bodies around any special considerations.
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