Opinion

Internet restrictions: Why do we have them?

“This Page Cannot be Displayed.”  Variations of this sentence have become a common sight on computer and phone screens around the school, inciting complaints and frustration from students and teachers alike.  The restrictions are often written off as unnecessary or unwarranted, but what most people don’t realize is that there are legitimate reasons as to why these restrictions are established and enforced.

Lack of unlimited bandwidth is one of the most significant reasons for the Internet restrictions in place.  Bandwidth, the maximum rate of data transfer over a network, is expensive, so although some websites may be legitimate or useful, they must be blocked because there simply isn’t enough connectivity available.  “We can’t match the bandwidth that someone would find at his or her house,” WW-P Technology Department director Rick Cave said.  “We don’t want to have some who is streaming their favorite movie to interfere with someone who wants to be able to do something in class.  That’s the constant battle back and forth in an open network like ours.”

Additionally, in order to qualify for certain federal funds, the district is required to block specific categories of Internet content; for example, websites like Facebook fall under the required “Social Networking” category.  The district itself very rarely chooses specific links to be blocked since most applicable websites are already restricted under the categories.  Because this is a school network, the priority for Internet use remains focused on instruction.  “There’s this constant discussion as to when does it become relevant enough to say, yes, we need to put this website out there.  For example, websites like social networks can become a distractor in some situations.  If they become too large of a distractor, it doesn’t merit opening up for the handful of people that may be benefitting,” Cave said.

Naturally, there are some instances where links that are potentially useful and valid are blocked under the categories.  In these situations, the district does have the power to go into the system and remove the restrictions for specific links.  A request to unblock a site can be made through an instructor who will then contact the Technology Department and put in a request.

It’s easy to make quick judgments about the district’s choice of internet restrictions, but clearly the situation is much more complex than that.  Hopefully now it’s easier to understand the reasons why your screen can’t display the page.

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