Economics of Greed and Competition Hold Back Internet at Colgate

John Rapisardi

At Colgate, it takes roughly four hours to download a season of “Workaholics,” one and a half hours to download Oscar-nominated film “Argo” and roughly three minutes to download Colin Powell’s latest TED Talk. Colgate’s Internet speeds are in fact even slower than that of the iPhone 5 or Galaxy SIII, depending on one’s carrier. 

If ultra-fast, gigabit internet (referrring to speeds up to 900 mbps) were a reality at Colgate, it would instead take two minutes to download a season of “Workaholics,” 42 seconds to download of “Argo” in HD and one second to download Colin Powell’s same TED Talk.

For librarians, professors and students conducting research, gigabit Internet could have greater implications; high-speed Internet would provide access to vast data and computational resources, and would enable greater research at Colgate. 

On campus, the average Internet download and upload speed is roughly seven megabytes per second (mbps). For non-computer science majors, seven mbps equates to sluggish download times for movies, TV shows and data-intensive academic resources. While slow Internet speeds can be frustrating for students and faculty alike, they are not the product of Colgate’s ITS department or a lack of Wi-Fi coverage, but instead, exploitive cable companies and rural economics. 

Across the country, cable companies are ripping off their customers as well as universities and businesses. Many cable companies such as Time Warner and Cablevision have the capacity to offer speeds ranging from 200 mpbs, and even up to 1,000 mbps through fiber optic infrastructure (ultra-fast networks). 

Instead of offering moderately fast Internet at a reasonable price, cable companies refuse to invest in newer, faster Internet technologies, and restrict data speeds to preserve their comically high, 97 percent Internet service profit margins.

In the face of the proliferation of on-demand digital content and rising cable bills, consumers have begun to take notice of cable company’s egregious practices. Several communities across the country have invested in and now maintain their own fiber, high-speed Internet service. Municipalities such as the city of Seattle plan to offer high-speed Internet services through a public utility. 

In Kansas, Google has built its own ultra-fast network, offering 1,000 mbps speeds for only $70 per month and is considering plans for other cities across the United States. Organizations, such as Gigabit Squared and GigU, have formed in an attempt to disrupt cable companies and offer high-speed Internet solutions for college campuses.

A faster gigabit Internet at Colgate would not only mean faster Netflix for the average student, but it would also distinguish Colgate from other liberal arts colleges and research institutions. Research which was once not possible with Colgate’s Internet infrastructure would become a reality and attract new students and faculty. Despite economic headwinds from cable companies, Colgate must explore ways to provide faster Internet for students and faculty. Investing in Colgate and infrastructure should not only mean new buildings and hockey rinks, but also more effective services.