Not Just Third World Nations Banning Skype; Universities Get On Board Too

from the bad-policies dept

It looks like it’s not just third world countries with government-backed telephone monopolies to protect that are banning VoIP. Some universities are getting in on the game as well. San Jose State University, just down the road from Skype’s parent company eBay, has apparently decided to block all Skype use on campus. The reasoning isn’t entirely clear, as school administrators say that it’s because Skype’s peer-to-peer nature effectively allows others to use the on-campus network — though the same could be said of any peer-to-peer application, and hardly seems like a reasonable explanation for the outright ban. A more likely explanation probably has something to do with whatever contracts the university has with its telecom provider — who doesn’t like the idea of being undercut. In the case of San Jose State, it looks like outrage from both professors and students (as well as a pending visit from eBay) has caused the university to hold off on the ban for now.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Not Just Third World Nations Banning Skype; Universities Get On Board Too”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Paul Cuff says:

Campus Telecom

I agree that the university probably is concerned about selling phone service. I’m on Stanford campus. I was ready to sign up for Vonage and Stanford decided that it was time to make the phone bill a mandatory addition to rent. Everyone I talk to about it has the same theory. Too much has been invested in phone lines that they don’t want to allow us any other options.

A little less stupid a little more thought, please says:

Re: USA is all about making money by forcing...

What the Hell. Yes there are people here who want to just make money and don’t care how, but THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. Go to a developing country and see just how corrupt their government is then compare it to ours. It has nothing to do with the U.S. and I am FREAKING TIRED of hearing morons dismiss social problems as only existing in the U.S. It’s everywhere, every country, every government, every corporation has it’s own corruption. Shut up and go read a history book.

On another note. It’s retarded to ban a service because it’s better th an what your college offers. Colleges always critize other groups or organizations for being too narrowminded and backwards. Looks like the pot calling the kettle black here…(is that a racist comment? Seems to be capable of that..somehow I suppose? If so, my bad!)

Pope Ratzo says:

Under My Thumb

“it might have something to do with their contracts with the phone company”

Ya think?

If you don’t think the fight against Net Neutrality is about limitations on your ability to use the internet you are a dope.

Maybe once the telcos win the Net Neutrality fight, you’ll see Google banned in favor of SBC Search.

Jason T. says:

Re: Under My Thumb

I agree, when and if we reach that state of affairs, one has to ask the question: What is the point of the damn internet besides porn? The U.S. has an economy that grows when things of this nature are developed and implemented in the proper manner. Banning Skype is just plain studpid and moves like that will surely drop their enrollment. LET PEOPLE COMMUNICATE HOWEVER THEY DAMN WELL PLEASE, IT’S KINDA IMPORTANT!

Char (user link) says:

Traditional phone companies are really starting to feel the pinch from cellular and VOIP usage and they are on the defensive. Ultimately, banning this new technology is only going to back fire.

Have they ever heard the saying “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” Maybe they need to spend more time and effort on ways to make their traditional services better and more attractive to customers. Offer a technology or feature (who knows what that is) that the other competitors don’t.

What ever you do, don’t take away my Skype!

Trevor Hawes (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Who on earth is Brian Transeau? Never heard of him. British Telecom on the other hand really is a great comany with good customer support and inovative technology labs. And no I don’t work for them!
Getting back to the subject – I dont see how they can ban it – and I guess a new protocol will soon come out with some way of wrapping or disguising voip calls as html data streams or something – so it looks just like a webpage.

jonathan riley says:

Re: Re: Re:

: British Telecom on the other hand really is a great comany

hey mr bible basher in poland (see the website that mr hawes links to in his comment), i can tell you with all the authority of someone living in britain and using – because i have been FORCED to use – bt products, that the company is far from really great. REAL far.

Chris Clancey (user link) says:

Re: Re: BT


I’ve just got to say (a bit off topic I know) that BT are positively the WORST company that I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Regardless of customer, business or personal they don’t seem to care much. Things they say will be done and things passed to other departments that just vanish in to the ether! BT are a bunch of incompitent fckwits that care much more about new customers than keeping the ones they have happy. They may have good technology, shame about everything else!


Bill T. says:

Re: Re: disguising VOIP

That’s quite likely. Remember how the ISPs got all ISPed off at bittorrent, and started blocking bittorrent so you can’t do it anymo- oh, that’s right, you can encrypt bt torrents now. 😉

You can’t fight us. Someone out there will always find a way around your walls and monopolistic Maginot lines. Your only choice is to join us, or perish.

VOIP hu akhbar! (I know I’m gonna get in trouble for that… ;-))

FreeTrade (profile) says:


Just typical that big business refuses to play on a level playing field. They need to find more acceptable ways to make a profit. This is a free market issue. Universities and anyone else should be ashamed to side with the interests of business against those of the consumer.

And BT is a huge former monopoly with godawful customer service – I speak as one who suffered for many years from their exploitation of customers.

MEoip says:


I’m hope this will eventually go down the road that apartments and satellite dishes went. With a decision the side of a free and open market. I’m just not sure that a university can up and decide to restrict the free market for the students. First, it doesn’t teach students to make wise financial choices, second college costs enough without some mandatory phone bill. The forward thinking school would junk the phone and do all VOIP services. But what do I know, my school blocked all free dial-up accounts, which we used to thwart websense, they also blocked all p2p services, umm and facebook.

Matthew Seckora (user link) says:

Banning VOIP

The universities and government should be looking at how to sell all services. I am a VAR for Charter Communications, Dell Computers, Cisco Systems and others. Plus Vonage has a link on their web if you sign up someone you get referral credit. This is a great way to get your phone for free and or get some cash out of the deal. Why not look into making money by promoting all services.

Yes even cell phone services are paying to promote which means if people are still supporting the 1960 copper wire they need to give up and look outside the box.

frankcsf says:

The Delay Factor

The telcos for the most part realize what many say on these posts. In the long run, they can’t win the switched vs internet phone battle outright. But to delay is golden. This gives them time to ‘branch out’ into other, more lucrative businesses, like hosting, IP services, etc. The longer they can keep the VoIP business from ascendancy, the longer they have to make inroads into other ventures. Kinda like the way MSFT plays against its competitors – delay, delay, delay. Then, they’ve won.

Spooky says:

First of all, this is not going to work. Universities have been sued before for trying to make certain commercial services mandatory, universities have never won. Second, VOIP is a competing medium just like any other company and to restrain its trade by deliberately shutting off markets is going to result in challenges in court that I don;t believe the universities will win. Third, There are laws that protect the companies against just such actions by entities such as Universities or other companies, I don’t think the universisites are going to win here either.

Scott says:

Not what you think

I wouldn’t have a problem with skype if it didn’t turn on a p2p mode to relay others phone calls and use multiple-megabits of connectivity to move some guys conversation from maine through my computer to india or something. Most places have a ‘you will not give others use of our computing resources’ rule, and using Skype is likely a violation of such rule.

Just use gizmo instead, it works well enough and does not incur the wrath of admins. Or GTalk or something. Anything SIP is also fine. Just as long as its not breaking policies!

Fuck College says:

This is a joke

Another reason for ‘the man’ to make the rules over the rest of the population. It’s sickening. Anyone want to give me a reason why you need Humanities for a degree in electronics? ANYONE AT ALL?

Don’t give me that shit that it makes you a well-rounded person either. Colleges crush people’s dreams of making all you ever wanted come true, when in reality, they just want your cash. Then, when you’re done, you wind up working a shit job that has almost nothing to do with why you went to college. Oh, unless you were in the armed services or getting a PHD.

FUCK THE INSTITUTION. They control the system with NO checks and balances, while the rest of the nation requires you to run the routine or you’re considered less than worthless.

Don’t be surprised when you start seeing “Alumni” license plates getting torn off of your car or having something vulgar painted over it. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT THAT YOU’RE AN ALUMNI.

A Student says:

That's not why it's banned at my school...

The college I go to has a ban on all P2P traffic, but that’s not why Skype isn’t allowed on the network. The reason we have a Skype ban is that in the TOS for using Skype you agree to allow Skype to use you as a supernode if you have a fast connection. That (according to our network security honcho anyway) is like our users agreeing to allow Skype to use our network resources – which they have no authority to do. There are a lot of people that use Skype, and if it was allowed our network speed would drop like a rock.

Francis says:

Re: That's not why it's banned at my school...

Your schools security admin is either a tool or doesn’t know what he is talking about – likely both. Skype uses a minimum of bandwidth when a call is in progress. Supernodes are only used to route CONNECTIONS – not calls. The calls themselves take place over three hops or less once connected – or in shorter words – POINT TO POINT. This ban move is about restricting the market – plain and simple. I admin a global corporate network (80 countries) and Skype use is encouraged among employees by the Chief Financial Officer of the company – and do you know why kiddies? IT SAVES THE COMPANY A BUNDLE OF MONEY!!!!! Know what the bandwith hit is? Too small for us to measure (i.e., negligible). Skype will win out in the end. Just another example of the GREED exhibited by academia brought into stark contrast with the fact that it is matched by the corrupt greed exhibited by Third World (Latin America mostly) governments. What a shame.

The Man says:

Free Market

If you are unhappy with your university banning Skype then once your semester is over, attend a different university. That is also free market economics. Something you must understand: In the United States of America, where you spend your money speaks louder then your words. If you hate telcos then cancel your service. If your university bans Skype then attend another university. If you hate the Japanese then stop buying Hondas. Etc. etc. etc.

me says:

truth be told, it really doesnt matter if skype dies or not, cause we all know how fast technology is, there will be a replacement program 2 days later that will be just as good if not better then skype, hell for all we know it might be tottally free, and remember to get everything skype offers u gotta pay (hope were allowed to say hell here o.o if not, sorry. There is no way the universities can win though! (sorry i just wanted to add the last so i had something bold o.o bold looks so cool!)

Ken says:

Re: w.e

For your information – not all universities are private. What state do you live in??? In California we have the State University/College system and the University of California. Funds are allocated by the State of California, out-of-state tuitions, and to a very small extent from student fees.
They are considered a PUBLIC institution.

danny s says:

Re: w.e

Hmm – I would certainly be annoyed if it was a UK University. Not only is that tax payers money, but students must pay also. While no longer a student, I would certainly support any rallies against rampant comercialism in academic institutions that were long funded from my taxes.

As for the US, they have practically begged to be ripped off by rampant monopolies and deserve all they get. Stupid people didnt know when they were getting done, and have been too far done to do anything about it any more. Here in the UK we are not so much better off, but at least have some chance of kicking the bad habits. And for those who argue its “good for the economy” to be ripped off like that, why is the dollar so weak and the pound so strong.

I do take note that Skype blocking does not necessarily mean all VOIP systems.

Andrew Venegas (user link) says:

Meeting on Tues.

Yes, I’m one of the pesky students that’s been blogging constantly about this since we broke this story. I can tell you some of the reasons that the University has given are just not in tune with reality. For instance, the University’s claim that it has been eating up bandwidth. Skype is a fringe program at best (for now) at SJSU.
Secondly, any P2P program has the inherant security risks that Skype has; that’s their very nature. Therefore, I do not see the logic of banning one without banning all unless there is a profit motif involved here.

Have any comments of your own to make on it? Skype Journal’s Phil Wolff will be hosting a Skype conference on the issue Tues. at 5:00 pm. You can join online or in person (SJSU, Dwight Bentel Hall, Room 226). Everyone’s invited, since EVERYONE has something to add.

Okita says:

Best Ad Campaign

In my region (PacNW) their is a allied cable communications ad on tv sometimes….telling the telco’s to stop asking for breaks and hand-outs…and if they want a fair shake, get out in the market and compete. That’s what cable did…and of course they are crazy about companies like Skype…whether you use the VoIP or not from your broadband cable provider….their still just happy if you use them at all.

Now, if we could just get them to stop throttling our bandwidth….

Bozo the Clown says:

You don't have to accept the contract.

My dad owns a business and often is given crazy contracts to sign, like a 6 year trash contract with crazy fines if you want to cancel. So he rewrote their contract and made it look like the one they sent him. Signed that and made copies. Then sent it back. No one has ever cought such changes so far. Universities could do the same thing so they don’t have to aggree to dumb restrictions. Last year my dorm phone only got used when the deans called us. So we didn’t even hook one up this year. Now I havn’t had to deal with them at all 😀

RantMax says:

Mike, don't be lame.

“The reasoning isn’t entirely clear, as school administrators say that it’s because Skype’s peer-to-peer nature effectively allows others to use the on-campus network — though the same could be said of any peer-to-peer application, and hardly seems like a reasonable explanation for the outright ban.”

The P2P abilities allow the campus network to be used by two people who BOTH are not on the campus. I have personal experience with Skype kicking into supernode mode on my PC, maxing out my connection.

This *is* the reason for the ban, and this is why Oxford temporairly banned Skype some time ago, and now allows it, but only if you turn it on while you use it (autostartup is not allowed, to avoid bandwidth leeching).

Mike, you’re honestly being silly sometimes. Therefore, I ask you: please stop being silly. Thanks.

Brian says:

According to what I read...

…Skype relies on user’s machines to become call routers. No university is going to pony up precious bandwidth to a commercial entity free of charge. Get off your high horse. Skype doesn’t have an intrinsic right to San Jose State’s network, nor do SJ State’s faculty and staff have some kind of innate right to run whatever apps they want.

Packetattack (user link) says:

USIS or Using Skype is Stupid

Virtually none of the comments here show anyone thinking about anything other than themselves. I wrote a chapter on Skype in the business word for Syngress and I had to put a disclaimer in the chapter which Syngress supported that said in a butshell, that I could not in good concience suggest to anyone to use Skype in the business world. That includes schools. There are a number of issues with Skype and many revolve around legalities. For example, in the case of suspected IP theft (intellectual property), you must have a trail showing what was taken, where and how it was moved out of the company and where it went to. Skype allows someone to bypass ALL the network security both inbound and outbound, the IM, the voice and the files are encrypted which normally is against most company IT policies, there is not an “end point” to provide tracking log files ( ie, this call went to this number at this time and this date) and so on.

A secondary issue was mentioned and that is that someone PAID for the IT infrstructure to provide a certain level of performance. Who ever PAID for this has the right to say yes or no to ANY application that uses the bandwidth. The courts have already said that the computer AND the infrastructure provided to you are COMPANY PROPERTY and the company has complete control over it. You as the employee do NOT have a resonable expection of privacy using company infrasture and equipment. Using Skype for example, is seen as bypassing company rules and rights. I was on a case where IM was used to pass IP to a competitor but in the case of MS IM, there are ways to break the otional encryption and MS has log files of all coversations unlike Skype.

At my current gig, if you are caught using Skype or other unapproved telcom applications, they will fire you on the spot due to the risk of industrial espionage which is a very real threat whether you want to belive it or not. Not all nations are friendly to us and many of our “friends’ will and are trying to get an advantage over us so why give them a helping hand?

Some say “well, if Skype is so bad, why dont you ban IM?” Why not indeed? If I had my way, it would ALL be banned unless controlled by IT and blessed by the legal eagles. Or as I’ve done in the past, use something like Bluecoat which allows you to use Yahoo IM by “reflecting” conversations back into the LAN between employees and blocking any outside coverstations. It’s a nice compromise. There are internal solutions for IM like Sametime and others which work as well but are not “free”. You get what you what you pay for if you are lucky.

No Name Needed... says:

I’m the senior network admin at a University in Texas components. We have some restrictions on Skype and P2P in general. We have an edge device in place that looks for specific strings in older versions of Skype (with known security holes) and blocks their use. Any version that does not have a known exploit is allowed. All P2P traffic is allowed, but restricted to a total at the edge of 32k up and 64k down by means of a bandwidth throttle…We do not ban – We limit…and with 18,000 plus users I do mean we really limit!

Skype works just fine, but try downloading a movie at that speed over a shared connection. We have not had a single letter from the RIAA or MPAA since we put these policies in place.

I also run the phone system and we are the ISP and the TELCO. We could care less what type of phone service our students use. In fact, the demand is so low due to cellular use that we no longer offer them wired service. Many have Vonage and other VOIP services which is also just fine with us.

Our student’s fees pay for our network. It belongs to them, and all of the people of the State of Texas, not to me and the other admins. As long as they use the bandwidth and refrain from abusing it, then aside from blatantly illegal use (like kiddie porn) it’s none of my business what they are doing on-line.

We have enough problems worrying about which idiot faculty member is placing personally identifiable data at risk at any given moment to sweat about what activities the students are indulging in over the net.

Cerah says:

Way to go no name needed

Finally, a network admin with principles. I commend you. I am an admitted heavy P2P user but I do see the point of how colleges must protect themselves for being sued over the activities of 10k students. That part is very understandable and you don’t even block it in case someone wants to use it legitimately. But I don’t see why so many network admins care about so many other very legal activities. I agree, protecting faculty information and securing the network is far more important than busting some perverted kid looking at perfectly legal XXX content. You have your priorities in check and Skype should not be banned as it only uses bandwidth(most colleges have plenty, mine does). I can only feel that this is a contract issue or some TOS that was written by somebody with bought interests.

PS-You have my vote as net admin at my school and I only do filesharing off my server or from home.

chris (profile) says:

branching out

telcos can’t “branch out” into hosting and ip services. the is no natural monopoly there. they would be competing with other, firmly established providers. and the best ways to compete against firmly established providers is either price or customer service. since telco and cableco customer service sucks most famously, that pretty much just leaves price. the last thing any of them wants to do is cut prices.

that’s why voip (in the case of telco’s) and video on demand (in the case of cable companies) is so scary, because their monopolies are threatened, and there is no place else to branch out to.

factor in companies likke vonage and google providing video and voice services, and there you have the basis for the anti-net neutrality camp.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...