GM Blocks Spotify, Netflix, Public Wifi

GM Blocks Spotify, Netflix, Public Wifi

Sarah Lambert, Managing Editor

A couple of weeks ago, students and teachers attempting to listen to music while doing their work discovered they were unable to get into the Spotify Web Player. They were also unable to link to the school’s wifi on their personal devices or watch Netflix or Hulu.  

When asked why Spotify was blocked, digital learning coordinator Steven Knight responded, “One of the main reasons was because it was the top level use of bandwidth for George Mason. Bandwidth is a limited resource at Mason, so we had to make a decision on what was more important, accessing Google Drive and Schoology, or listening to music whenever you want.”

Graph of band width use
An image showing Mason’s band width use shows Spotify as the most popular media streaming app. Spotify is currently not accessible on the school wifi and was blocked to save band width for things like Schoology and Google Drive. (Screenshot via FCCPS)

Many students at Mason were never informed as to why it was blocked and feel it is a punishment.

“Why would it be blocked? It’s just music. We aren’t doing anything bad with it,” Sophomore Alejandra Llinas said.

The school, however, doesn’t want this to be viewed as a punishment.  Administrators say it is simply necessary in order for all the schools in the FCCPS system to have the bandwidth needed to perform required online activities such as STAR testing.

Administrators make a distinction between Spotify and sites like Netflix and Hulu.  They say Spotify is a perfectly fine thing to use in school and can help students work, whereas sites such as Netflix are of no educational use to the students and can be distracting. 

“Netflix is not available during the school day because it isn’t in the best interest of the students,” said Mr. Hills. “However, it is not completely blocked; there is no instructional need, so it is not allowed on the network from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school wifi.” Netflix, Spotify, and other blocked sites are still available at home or on other wifi networks. 

Many students, like Senior Anja Boneau, found that they were still able to use Spotify on the school network.

“I don’t think the block really works well, I use it all the time,” Boneau said.

Mr. Hills said that if students have downloaded Spotify, it will not be blocked since it will be on the drive and will not be using the school’s bandwidth.

Mr. Knight said that if students have not downloaded Spotify and are still able to access the Spotify Web Player online, they should turn in their computer. He stated that if students are found being able to use Spotify after knowing that it is blocked, they may face consequences.

The administration wants to make it clear to students that blocking these sites is only a temporary solution until they find other ways to conserve bandwidth. In fact, they are requesting 68,000 dollars for web interface equipment for the school system from the town budget, but it will not be available until July 1 of fiscal year 2019.

Mr. Hills said school administrators are in the process of determining what the money will be used for.  He said they are considering new security features, security programs, a more streamlined approach which would increase bandwidth, and new instructional programs like Adobe Photoshop.