Oxford Students Hit Out At Spotify Ban

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Oxford university has tried to block music-streaming site Spotify, claiming that the peer-to-peer aspects of its technology are a drain on bandwidth

Oxford University’s IT department has attempted to block students from accessing Spotify, claiming the music-streaming service is a drain on bandwidth with no educational benefit.

According to reports in the The Daily Telegraph, as well as the university’s own newspaper Cherwell, the decision was taken last week amid concerns that growing use of the music service was impacting the performance of university bandwidth.

The Telegraph quoted a spokesperson from the university who was reported as saying that Spotify’s peer-to-peer aspects are a drain on bandwidth. “The university provides free Internet access for students because it’s an educational resource. If they want to use it recreationally as well that’s no problem unless it uses so much bandwidth that it slows the network down,” the spokesperson said. 

“I’m sure the students would like it if they could have Spotify back but they are getting a free service, so they must accept some restrictions.”

The university’s computing service OUCS has strict policies on peer-to-peer computing. “Bandwidth that seems insignificant for one user will soon add up when scaled up to the many thousands of users connected to Oxford University’s networks,” the department states. “It is one thing attempting to justify a network upgrade on the basis of a genuine academic requirement, such as the petabytes of data expected from CERN when their latest collider comes online. It is another thing trying to do it purely to cope with the demands of high-bandwidth recreational usage. Taxpayers and research councils tend to like to see their money being spent more wisely!”

But despite the concerns about Spotify’s peer-to-peer aspects, the site not only allows users to share music but also relies on some central servers to stream music – although the company has been secretive about how its technology functions. “Spotify uses a peer-to-peer network along with streaming servers to stream music. This is why you see multiple connections to other Spotify users,” the company states.

Commenting on the Oxford ban, a spokesperson for Spotify said the company was working with the university on how to restore the service. “We’re sad to think of our student friends at Oxford University unable to listen to Spotify whilst on campus. We’re now talking to the university about how we can help them get the music back to their students,” the spokesperson said. “It’s important that we offer a high-quality service that gives our users instant – and legal – access to music, but equally we’re working constantly to optimise our technology to ensure everyone can enjoy Spotify.”

According to reports in Cherwell, the ban imposed by the university has not been uniform with some students still able to access the site. “Plenty of my friends still use Spotify, and to be honest I can see nothing wrong with that – it’s not as if every single person is on it every single hour of the day,” the paper quoted one student as saying.

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