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Sunday, November 1, 2015

LAN ban in IITs no longer purposeful - Pagal Guy

31 October 2015

Colleges banning internet access in this age of globalisation is a rule that still baffles many heads.  Most IITs impose internet restrictions for students in their hostel rooms, a rule that was brought in place almost a decade ago. Today, this rule has lost its significance owing to the pool of alternatives for internet use like smartphones, dongles, etc. Several student protests have been suppressed and institute authorities now no longer consider them an issue of concern.

IIT Bombay was the earliest among the IITs to impose an internet ban. A misfortunate incident of campus suicide is what led to this rule. In the following years, other IITs like IIT Madras, IIT Delhi, and IIT Guwahati also followed suit. However, this rule is only restricted to the student hostels, while internet is available 24/7 in the department labs, libraries and institute buildings. The idea behind imposing such a law is more or less the same throughout IITs. In IIT Guwahati, internet is banned from 2 AM to 5 AM so as to ensure students get adequate sleep at night and it is banned through the day from 8 AM to 5PM as an incentive for students to attend lectures instead of staying in their hostel rooms. Prof Soumya Mukherjee, Student Affairs Dean, IIT Bombay says, "We cannot restrict how a student uses his personal belongings like mobile phones. From the institute's end, our efforts are towards disciplined use of time."

Students in these institutes have debated against this rule for being redundant. "We have smart phones with 4G internet and iPads with dongles. We achieve fruitful tasks even in the wee hours of the night using these tools," says Sanchit Kalra, a student at IIT D. Another student, Chaitanya Sangani, from IIT Guwahati, says, "The ban hasn't led to any increase in attendance during lectures. In fact we can still browse Facebook or Twitter during lectures through our phone from anywhere in the campus." As long as students can fulfil their internet needs through smartphones and personal internet facilities, they are not affected by the LAN ban.

While social networking is allowed during the hours internet access is available, certain other websites with inappropriate content have been permanently banned throughout the campus. Nitish Reddy, a student of IIT M, says, "There was a time when internet was only available in cyber cafes or though wired connections. Newer channels for access have now been developed in India. Certain other sites that have been banned can be accessed through our personal devices."

On the other hand, IIT Kharagpur students are still alien to the idea of a ban on internet access. "We enjoy unrestricted internet services 24/7 across the campus. I don't see what issues such a ban can resolve, since the college's network is no longer the dominant means of internet access," says Ayudh Datta, a student of IIT Kgp.

Any student or professional today will crib about the inconvenience restricted internet access causes in fast running lives. Students staying up all night for their projects or exams have to work from the discomfort of institute labs and libraries rather than the comfort of their rooms. "We usually hurry our college work or postpone it to avoid spending the night alone in the department labs," says Chaitanya.

Despite such wide disregard for the rule, IITs are still persistent about its fruitfulness. The plan to impose a ban on only LAN and not on personal internet is a huge flaw in its implementation. It is time to evaluate the purpose of this law in view of development in accessibility to internet over the years.