Plans and funding are in place to double internet bandwidth for the residential network (ResNet) from 200Mb to 400Mb by August 2012.
The ResNet network has consistently seen modest annual bandwidth increases to respond to student demand without increasing the cost to residents. Fifteen years ago, the University undertook a major project and borrowed money to wire all residence hall rooms for high-speed network and internet access. Now that the initial loan is about to be paid off, the savings are being reinvested into the network.
Bandwidth is essentially the amount of data that can pass to/from the internet, analogous to the number of lanes on a highway. The more lanes you have, the more quickly traffic is able to flow.
Although ResNet bandwidth has increased nearly 500% since April 2006, it's difficult to keep up with student demand. For example, on a normal weekday the 200Mb pipe currently in place is completely filled most of the time -- from about 10am to 3am.
To help ease congestion, a number of bandwidth management devices are utilized. One such device, which kicks in when the internet pipe reaches 90% utilization, attempts to provide equitable bandwidth to all users by "borrowing" from the heavy users in order to minimize lag for the not-so-heavy users. The result is that users uploading/downloading huge files and running dozens of concurrent sessions during peak times will see their file transfers take longer than they would during off hours.
Although the jump to 400Mb is a substantial increase, we still expect to see peak usage numbers that require continued use of bandwidth management devices. However, peak usage time should be greatly reduced, resulting in a faster internet connection for all residents.