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Campus Computing News

By Dr. Maurice Leatherbury, Senior Director of Academic Computing

Internet Bandwidth Issues on Campus 

As we near the end of the fall 2000 semester, the campus is experiencing slow communications to the off-campus Internet, affecting our work, studies, and personal use of the World Wide Web. The slowness is a result of the lack of sufficient data communications bandwidth to carry the heavy load of traffic we all generate at UNT. Currently, we have 9 megabits/second capacity on our Internet connection, but that connection is essentially saturated 19 hours a day and especially during working hours when were all trying to get to Web sites to do our business. This chart vividly depicts the problem:

Internet Gateway (1.146 MBps)

The green-shaded area shows the utilization of our incoming Internet bandwidth as of 2:30 PM on Monday, December 11, 2000. As you'd expect, usage drops during the weekends, but it's clear from the chart that for most of the time, particularly during workdays, the "pipe is full." Outbound utilization, shown by the blue line, also shows that we're nearly filling the 9-megabit capacity available to us now. Bill Buntain, the Director of Networking and Communications Services, recently posted a message on one of UNT's newsgroups explaining how the problem occurred and what we're doing to correct it. I'll plagiarize from his message.

A Bit of History 

Recognizing the exploding demand for traffic, UNT initiated looking at alternatives for providing Internet connectivity in November of 1999. Our desire was to find a vendor that would allow us to co-locate equipment in Dallas so that we could put all of our Internet 1 and Internet 2 traffic on a single circuit between Denton and Dallas and split the traffic there. Co-locating hardware would also allow us to interconnect the Health Science Center in Fort Worth (HSC), the System Center at Dallas (SCD), and the Universities Center at Dallas (UCD) more effectively. We were also looking for someone who would give us access to "dark fiber" (unused fiber optics lines) so that we would have greater flexibility in scaling our connections to meet demand. In February of 2000 we sent an RFP to 16 vendors, including Williams Communications Solutions, Intermedia Communications, TXU Communications, Southwestern Bell Telephone, CapRock Communications, Sprint, GTE, AT&T, MCI WorldCom, Qwest, DIGEX, and Verio. Prior to that we had talked to Texas State Telephone Cooperative, Lower Colorado River Authority, Muenster Telephone, NTS Communications, Peoples Communications, MetroMedia Fiber Systems, CoServ, eSpire, Charter TV, Century Telephone, NextLink, the Texas Department of Transportation, Dallas Area Rapid Transport, Burlington Northern/Santa Fe, Level 3, ICG Communications, Union Pacific, Trinity River Authority, Fiber America, and WinStar. 

None of the proposals that came back had better rates than what was available to us through the State of Texas General Services Commission TEX-AN 2000 contracts. By state regulation, we have to purchase phone and data communications circuits/services from the GSC or obtain a waiver from that agency to purchase from some other source. In April we initiated a request for pricing through the GSC. Even with a 4-6 week delay we should have been able to order the circuits we needed by the end of May, giving us approximately three months to get the circuits in place for the start of the fall semester. However, from this point Murphy’s Law took over. Due to some coordination problems between the GSC and the phone companies, we did not get the correct pricing firmly established until mid-July. We immediately requested the circuits to be installed and the order expedited. The order form indicated that we should allow 45 days for the installation. However, in mid-August we were informed that the OC-3C circuit (144Mbps) we had ordered between Denton and Dallas and which GTE and SW Bell had priced to us was not available because they did not have an interconnect agreement for an OC-3C. At that point we ordered a DS-3 and again requested that installation be expedited. SW Bell turned up some engineering problems in their Central Offices and they've given us a connection date of January 9, 2000 at which point they'll hook up a line to Verizon, our local phone company, to get us to the Internet backbone

What We Are Installing 

When all of the circuits we have ordered are installed, we will have two DS-3s between Denton and Richardson. We will have a switch located in Richardson which will split our traffic into Internet 1 traffic, Internet 2 traffic, and traffic bound for the HSC, SCD, and UCD. The circuits to Internet 1 and Internet 2 will both be DS-3s, each of which provides 45 Mbps of bandwidth. Our Internet 1 provider will be Qwest, which is a Tier 1 ISP. Our Internet 2 connection will be to a router managed by the Alliance for Higher Education which in turned will be connected to the Qwest Abilene network via an OC-3. 

We are already investigating alternatives for leveraging what bandwidth we have now and will have after the upgrade and are planning for the next iteration of upgrading our network. We are concerned about the increasing demand and the costs associated with it. Just FYI, the total cost of our Internet connectivity is over $300,000 per year, not counting our participation in the AHE consortium or Internet 2.

What You Can Do to Help

If everything goes as planned, UNT will have a five-fold increase in our Internet connection speed by mid to late January of next year. In the meantime, there are some things that each of us can do to minimize the impact our Internet use has on the rest of the campus:

  • Don't listen to streaming audio, etc. from off campus (e.g., don't run Real Jukebox to listen to your favorite radio station in Oklahoma City.)
  • Don't do personal shopping or recreational Web browsing during your breaks (it goes without saying that you shouldn't be doing this during work hours!)
  • Don't download large files during work hours unless they're really needed immediately for your work. This would include such things as upgrades to your Web browser, software that you want to try out on your computer, or audio/video files you want to listen to or view.