Cambridge students told not to use Spotify

Alex Cooke – Deputy News Editor 18 February 2010

Students at St Edmund’s College have been told not to use the popular music streaming service Spotify, prompting fears for its future in Cambridge. This follows widespread dismay in response to an outright ban on Spotify at Oxford.

The director of Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS) justified the decision with the assertion that such file sharing software used up an excessive amount of bandwidth which, when multiplied by the many thousands of users it attracts, could pose problems to the network provision.

However, Ian Lewis, director of Cambridge University Computing Services, told The Cambridge Student (TCS) that “it is the peer-to-peer distribution of the data that is the concern, not the listening to music part which frankly is a blip in a network with the capacity of ours.”

Espen Koht, IT manager for St Edmund’s, confirmed this concern in an email to a student: “Spotify can create pretty terrifying amounts of outgoing traffic almost regardless of how much you think you are using it. It uses your computer as a cache for other Spotify users who will to drawn to the excellent bandwidth you have for outgoing traffic compared to home broadband users.”

Whilst a spokesperson for the University Computing Services assured TCS that “the computing service does not have plans to ban Spotify,” further comment revealed that “this may change if it appears to be a problem at a later date”.

If Spotify were to be banned, then the one consolation is that individual colleges would retain their autonomy to implement their own policies – unlike at Oxford. At some colleges then, students might not suffer at all.

Vito Vallega,  a computer officer at Newnham College, offered a reassuring statement when questioned about the possibility of banning file-sharing software: “Why would anyone ban it? Our policy is to provide an internet service that is closest to what students have at home. Of course we monitor for abuse, but we have no plans to ban programmes like Spotify which are harmless.”

However, the threat of disconnection given to a student at St Edmund’s following Spotify use suggests that those in other colleges might not be so fortunate.

Third year English student Alice  Spawls was concerned by the possibility that Spotify use could be restricted. She said, “I often use Spotify while I study and have never experienced any problems.”

Alex Cooke – Deputy News Editor