Arlington, VA — It has been about 100 days since Barack Obama took office, but this week college networking leaders were talking about what an Inauguration Day spike in Internet traffic means for the role of high-speed research networks on campus.

A session here at the annual meeting of Internet2, a college high-speed networking group, focused on what it called “the Obama effect” on campus networks. On January 20, the day President Obama was sworn in amid record-setting crowds and an onslaught of media coverage, Internet use on campus networks spiked to record levels as people on campuses watched video of the speech on their computers or sent Facebook updates about the event, according to a college officials who spoke at the session.

That spike caught some officials off guard. “All of us were a little surprised by the impact of this,” said Marla Meehl, manager of network engineering and telecommunications at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “It’s a new thing we have to consider — that a media event could lead to such a spike.”

The session was led by Jen Leasure, president and chief executive of a networking group called the Quilt, which represents state and regional academic and research networks. She said that many officials have traditionally turned to their high-speed research networks when they know there will be a need for large amounts of Internet bandwidth — and that usually those situations have involved educational or research projects planned by professors. Now that students and professors, like many others, are turning to the Internet for video of major news events, college administrators might want to consider using high-speed networks to help ease the load when big news happens.

“We tend to focus internally on educational research projects,” she said. “Now we need to check on external factors too. The next time we know of a big public event, we’ll talk to each other ahead of time.” —Jeffrey R. Young

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