THE ADMINISTRATION’S SIDE ON THE BLOCKING OF SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES (SNS) AND WEB STREAMING SITES (WBS)
UPV: Now Online
WiFi, also known in some circles as Wireless Fidelity, is a technology that allows devices to be able to access the Internet wirelessly. In the past few years, WiFi has become more and more common all over the world, and even in the Philippines – a large number of coffee shops, fastfood restaurants, malls, schools, offices and dormitories are now WiFi-accessible spots.
The idea of providing WiFi access in the University of the Philippines Visayas was a proposal of Dr. Glenn Aguilar, even before his turn as Chancellor. However, it was only then when he was elected Chancellor that this was approved and implemented.
The University started offering open access to WiFi services in the first semester of the Academic Year 2008-2009. However, on August 1, 2008, the administration required users to log in before gaining access to the WiFi connection. To be able to log in, one has to first submit his or her respective Internet Protocol (IP) address and present a UP ID in order to be given a username and password for the PuTTY – a program needed to access the University’s WiFi connection.
The following year (A.Y. 2009-2010) after it was made available in various spots all over the campus, such as the Division of Social Sciences’ lobby and the Learning Resource Center (LRC), UP dormitories were also given WiFi routers. This was good news for the dormers, since previously they had to take turns with the dorms’ DSL connection, which only had around eight lines per dorm.
According to Mr. Efrain V. Servento of the Data and Information Systems Program (DISP), which is under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development (OVCPD), the University currently has an internet connection with a speed of 1.5Mbps (Megabytes per second). The internet provider is Globe Telecom, and the monthly charge for UP Visayas alone is P60,000.
More Users, Less Speed
Sometime during the second semester of the Academic Year 2009-2010, Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development Alice G. Ferrer contacted the DISP about the decreasing speed of the University’s internet connection.
Through a forum between the DISP and the Office of the VCPD, they came to a verbal agreement on the DISP’s recommendation to implement the blocking of Social Networking Sites (SNS) and Web Streaming Sites (WSS) from internet access during office hours.
On November 18, 2009, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development issued Memorandum No. 2009-11-013, with “Blocking of Web Streaming Sites (WSS) and Social Networking Sites (SNS)” as the subject.
The memorandum stated that the increasing number of internet users in the University has slowed down the connection, and suggested that the blocking of the aforementioned sites could help improve the speed.
The specific sites mentioned in the memorandum were Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn, but the blocking is not limited to those sites only. They were to be blocked Mondays to Fridays from 8:00 AM to 12:00 NN, and 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
Mr. Servento said that this blocking was to be done through a firewall, where you had to enter which specific sites you wanted to be blocked. The term used for this was “Allow all except (specified sites)”.
The said memorandum was addressed to “All Offices Concerned, UPV Miagao Campus”.
Different offices all over the Miagao campus were asked whether they received a copy of Memorandum 2009-11-013. All UP dormitories did not receive any copy, but staff and dorm heads of Balay Apitong (Graduate Hall) and Balay Lampirong (Freshman Hall 1) said that they were informed by the DISP over the phone about the blocking of the SNS and WSS.
As for the divisions in the College of Arts and Sciences – Division of Humanities, Division of Biological Sciences, Department of Chemistry, Division of Physical Sciences and Mathematics, and Division of Social Sciences – they were all able to receive the memorandum from the Vice Chancellor. They also said that they had posted this memorandum in their respective bulletin boards.
The School of Technology also confirmed that they had received it, and posted it in their bulletin board. The College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences did not receive a copy, but they were informed by the DISP verbally.
The Office of the Registrar in the College of Arts and Sciences was also given a copy.
However, despite these divisions’ claims that the memorandum was posted in their bulletin boards; most students were only able to find out about this blocking of SNS and WSS through word of mouth.
Reasons Behind the Blocking
As mentioned earlier, the main purpose of this blocking was to help improve the internet connection speed of the University during office hours.
Mr. Servento, however, added that this was also to ensure efficiency within the workplace. He said that it cannot be denied that even those working in the offices would sometimes open these social networking sites even during working hours. By blocking these sites, it can be assumed that these people will work only on their assigned tasks and not be distracted by other websites not related to work. Students who are also accessing the WiFi connection will also be able to focus more on their schoolwork during class hours instead of spending their time on social networking sites.
After the implementation of this blocking, Mr. Servento also said that the Vice Chancellor Alice G. Ferrer commented that there was an improvement in the internet speed during office hours.
However, it was still rather slow, and complaints would still arrive in the DISP office even after the blocking. This, of course, cannot be avoided since the University does have a very large number of internet users.
With these complaints in mind, the DISP also recently suggested that the University increase its bandwidth from 1.5Mbps to 4Mbps. This would be in the Miagao campus alone, and the monthly charge would rise from P60,000 to P90,000.
As of now, this plan to increase the University’s bandwidth has been approved, and is expected to be implemented by June of the following academic year. But even with the increase in bandwidth, Mr. Servento said that the blocking of the SNS and WSS would still continue.
Solutions to Complaints
Many complaints have been received by the DISP throughout the implementation of this blocking, but there are also solutions to these complaints.
If a faculty member, student, or office staff needs to access one of the sites blocked by the DISP, and has a valid reason to do so, he or she can fill up a job request form stating which site he or she wants to access, along with his or her reasons and IP address, so that the DISP can unblock it only for him or her during the time needed.
Based on the reasons given by both the DISP and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development, the blocking of social networking sites and web streaming sites is practical in its purpose, which is to improve the University’s internet connection speed and also to improve efficiency in the workplace.
However, the information dissemination of this implementation was done poorly. The DISP or the OVCPD could have also sent memorandums to the UP dormitories, since they also offered WiFi services. Most students were caught by surprise of this move from the administration, or they had only heard of it through some of their peers and not through an actual posted memorandum itself.
While we realize that this implementation is meant for the improvement of the University, it is also important that the people affected must be duly informed of this decision.