Friday, March 16, 2007

Tournament surfing takes toll on bandwidth


The NCAA's plan to stream all out-of-market men's basketball tournament games online could be a boon for consumers, but a drag for Internet service providers.

A drag on the network, that is.

The popular March Madness on Demand service that debuted last year is back again for the 2007 edition of the tournament; only this time the resolution is expected to be 50 percent greater than last season. CBS and the NCAA have also added radio broadcasts and a half-time show to their offerings, which likely will make bandwidth use even higher than last year.

Joe Ryan, assistant general manager of Sunflower Broadband, said the company has been preparing for the streaming video event, but isn't sure what to expect.

"The on-demand portion online, though, is certainly going to be a lot busier," he said.

Though problems seemed sparse Thursday, it's possible that with more people at home Saturday and Sunday bandwidth use could be higher.

Ryan said Sunflower, which is owned by The World Company, publisher of the Journal-World, has been tracking its usage carefully during the past few weeks and has noticed interesting trends. Traffic spiked as tournament brackets were announced, but was much lower when Kansas University was playing Texas for the Big 12 Tournament title. This idea leads him to believe that as long as KU is playing, the bandwidth use won't be excessive.

"When KU is on, the computers are off," Ryan said.

Today's tournament TV schedule

These NCAA Tournament games are available on local channels.

Sunflower Broadband customers with the sports tier will be able to watch games shown on Channel 181.

All games, except the Kansas University game, may shift at the discretion of CBS, based on which games are nearing completion or are more competitive.

Today's gamesSlot 1:Channels 5 and 201 (High Definition), UNLV vs. Georgia Tech at 11:25 a.m.Channel 181, Virginia vs. Albany at 11:15 a.m.Slot 2:Channels 5 and 201 (HD), Notre Dame vs. Winthrop at 1:35 p.m.Channel 181, Nevada vs. Creighton at 1:50 p.m.Slot 3:Channels 5 and 201 (HD), Kansas vs. Niagara at 6:10 p.m.Channel 181, Texas vs. New Mexico State at 6:25 p.m.Slot 4:Channels 5 and 201 (HD), Kentucky vs. Villanova at 8:30 p.m.Channel 181, Florida vs. Jackson State at 8:40 p.m.

Allison Rose Lopez, public relations and communications manager for KU Information Services, said KU would be closely monitoring how its network handled the potential increase in bandwidth usage because of March Madness on Demand.

"We didn't see any appreciable degradation of the service last year," she said. "If that happens this year, we'll throttle it back."

The situation is especially sensitive at KU, where the network is already strained by overuse in the residence halls. KU added bandwidth to the residence halls during the evening hours, but between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, when at least 12 games will be streamed, the network is congested with on-campus academic traffic, according to a notice KU ResNet posted on its Web site.

Damon Porter, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable in Kansas City, which serves some communities around Lawrence, said it's important for users to realize that any slowdown in Internet performance could be caused by a number of factors.

"March Madness is going to be very popular, and a lot of people will be trying to access that Web site at the same time," Porter said. "The Internet wasn't designed for a number of people to be watching a two-hour streaming video at the same time."

But Porter said he believed the Time Warner network would be able to handle the extra traffic.

Ryan said Sunflower was prepared to acquire additional bandwidth if necessary as traffic ramps up through the tournament games.

Online bracket hype could impact internet usage

Online streaming video of the NCAA mens' tournament game is back and while it can meet the demand for fans to see out of market games, questions persist about potential impact on overall internet usage.

He also pointed out that for subscribers with the sports tier and digital cable, one out-of-market game was available on Channel 181 in each of the four time slots today, as it was Thursday. Sunflower also is unique among most broadband Internet providers in that it limits what level of bandwidth customers can use per month without paying an additional fee.

Customers with premium service, which Ryan said would have the best experience using March Madness on Demand, have 30 gigabytes of bandwidth per month before facing additional charges.


jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago


Jclarkson 11 years, 2 months ago

Amen! Im just so ready for this. Its like 2 years worth of waiting for this moment. Im sure Self and the rest of the team has this feeling.

I hope they're as pissed off going into this game as I am. If so, Niagara may as well not show up.

compmd 11 years, 2 months ago


YOU care about bandwidth at a time like this. Its the regular people who will get pissed off when they want to check their email/myspace/facebook/news or watch one of the NCAA games and can't because the network is overloaded.

Having bandwidth also means you can make statements about things you don't understand on the LJW's website.

smf 11 years, 2 months ago

I care about bandwidth because Sunflower's ridiculously low monthly quota costs me extra money, especially this month when I'll undoubtedly be streaming out-of-market games. It's sad when their middle-tier service gives you a measly 6GB/mo while larger competitors (Cox, TWC, Comcast?) have no official limit, and much higher speeds.

jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago


bandwidth fear is so 5 years ago.

here's the permanent reality of the net.

There will NEVER be enough bandwidth at peak loads.

There will ALWAYS be excess off peak loads.

The internet is an infrastructure. Don't you get it? All infrastructure is overwhelmed by peak loads and underwhelmed by lesser ones. Have you ever driven a car on a freeway at 8am on Wednesday morning and at 1am Sunday?

If you knew anything about infrastructures, and anything about Moore's Law in computing speed, and about the historical rate at which the volume of bytes skyrockets everytime bottlenecks are widened from inside the box to between the boxes, you'd realize that the internet will ALWAYS have problems at peak loads.

Frankly, the net was never designed for high peak load performance. It was designed to make sure a small bunch of defense wonks could stay connected even when several cities and phone trunks had been nuked.

The net is a lousy design for its current use, just as Windows in even its latest variant is too. Both are legacy systems designed for another time and use that we are stuck with, because of the sunk costs and legal stickyness that perpetuate them both.

For god's sakes, man, I vaguely recall that there are even byte storms (data chaos apparently) on the internet that are statistical anomalies that occur that they can't even really forecast the specifics of any better than they can forecast the exact movement of swirls in the chaotic eddies down stream of a stick in a river.

And try asking the managers of the net what actually happens to the missing data packets on the net.

No, I think that even the most rabid college basketball fan would do well to simply log on and check to see if its working...and if it isn't go shoot some baskets and listen to a radio. Forecasting this stuff is just a waste of time and money, another cost to build into a system that won't be appreciably helped by doing so.

There's another aspect to this as well. Most of us don't need to know when the sunrise is. A few do. Most of us can get along very well without knowing the exact minute and second when the sun will rise. Who the hell wants to get up with the sun anyway?

Jesus said the poor we will always have with us.

I have for years added to that axiom the rich we will always have with us.

(The point being we can't wait for these problems to be solved to try to solve what problems can be solved NOW.)

To both of these, I will now add bandwidth inadequacy at peak loads we will always have with us.


jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago

compmd Post Script:

Your chicken little argument that people will be pissed off when they can't get their bytes in a timely fashion reminds me of the oil company yahoos and their Defense Think Tank Brothers who sit around and rationalize walking into third world countries and slaughtering innocents to get their oil this way: the public will be furious if we have another oil shortage! We have to kill those innocents to make sure there is a steady supply.

Uh, earth, to vested interests everywhere: what happens to consumers that are prevented from access to one product or resource is that they practice the principle of substitution...they use something else...or do something else...unless they are prevented from substituting.

I say substitute freely if you want the best possible efficiencies.

Joe Ross 11 years, 2 months ago

Missed 3 games on bracket in work pool:

Chose Duke over VCU, TXT over BC, and Marquette over MSU. Only two of those were relatively close.

How are your brackets going?

jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago

Believe it or not, I've been so busy with stuff I didn't fill out a bracket or enter a pool this year.

mtjayhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

I'll tell you who cares about! When you live in the Hawks...and know damn good and well CBS will be carrying regional coverage...having access to the internet is about the only way I'll be seeing KU tonight. I'm just glad I upgraded to hi-speed cable this summer, otherwise I'd be stuck watching Texas and New Mexico State from Spokane (just 200 miles away).

By the way...I made the trek to Lawrence to see the KU-Texas game...WOW!...just wish I could make more trips to "MECCA"!!!

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