(TNS) — The most popular sites visited by students at Northern State University are Netflix and YouTube.
At least that's the case in this first week of school.
Over the last few years, NSU has beefed up its Internet offerings to support the growing demand for bandwidth from its students.
A few years ago, each student had one device — a computer — that connected to the Internet, said Jodi Casanova, NSU's information technology security officer. Now, each student is bringing in three or four devices that connect to the Internet. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, televisions, streaming media players, such as Apple TV or Chromecast, and gaming systems all want a piece of the online pie.
Sophomore Sierra Bivens, a biology major from Langford, has four devices that use an Internet connection in her room — two laptops, a phone and a tablet. Her main source of video entertainment in her Jerde Hall dorm room is Netflix.
"My mom has it, so I'm like, 'Ah. Free. OK, definitely,' " Bivens said. She uses one of the laptops hooked up to the TV with an HDMI cable to watch.
Most of NSU's bandwidth goes to students, Casanova said.
"The applications they use it for are more Internet-intensive, and while it's primarily educational, (the NSU campus is their) home, too, and they definitely need to be able to relax and do all the stuff they want to do," she said.
Since 2011, Northern's Internet speeds — both incoming and outgoing — have increased more than tenfold, Casanova said.
NSU is completely wireless, a conversion that started in 2009, Casanova said. Previously, students in the dorms wanted wired connections because they had greater dependability. But as technology has improved, Wi-Fi is where it's at.
There are a few computer labs on campus, but most of them aren't designed for general use, Casanova said.
Instead, they are mostly geared toward students taking classes from professors who require specific software that the university doesn't want to make students purchase.
A decade ago, illegal, peer-to-peer downloading was the one of the biggest worries of educators providing free, high-speed Internet to students, but the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act curbed that, Casanova said.
"It said that universities have to use technology to restrict copyrighted material infringement," Casanova said. "What the South Dakota universities did to handle that was put in place a traffic shaper."
The peer-to-peer sharing programs that students used got very little bandwidth, about the same speed as a dial-up connection, Casanova said.
Freshmen Jake Sigurdson, a history education major from Watertown, has two devices that use Internet — his phone and his laptop. His main source of video entertainment is Netflix, which he watches through his computer.
To help curb the amount of bandwidth used by Netflix, a cache has been set up, Casanova said. Once someone on the network watches a show or movie on the popular streaming site, it goes onto a server. The next people to watch it will watch it from the server on an Internet 2 connection — a free, high-speed connection dedicated to research and education — freeing up Internet 1 bandwidth throughout the university. Items on the cache still need to be accessed legally.
Roommates Nick Buras and Desmond Bobo, both from Los Angles, have five Internet-enabled devices between them. They each have a phone, there's a computer and an iPad, and then there's an X-Box that doesn't have a TV quite yet.
"We need to buy one," Buras, an art major, said.
Bobo is studying business.
Elsewhere in Jerde Hall, Landon Hoellein of Aberdeen and Donovan Yabo, a medical science major from Peoria, Ariz., use their X-Box One to stream Netflix to their TV. That's one of five devices the pair has in its room.
Every once in a while, they've noticed a hiccup in their Internet service, said Hoellein, who's majoring in either business or graphic design.
"It gets crowded, but it's not bad, though," Hoellein said.
Students having issues with their Internet are encouraged to call the support desk on campus during regular business hours. On weekends, resident advisors know the chain of command to get issues resolved, Casanova said.
"The frustrating part is, we don't hear from the students very much," Casanova said. "We don't know if they're OK with what we're doing. We always assume they need more, so we just get more.
"The more people we hear from, the more help we can give," Casanova said.
©2015 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.