That Old Skype Magic

Skype seems to have universities in a spin lately. The San Jose Mercury reported today that San Jose State University is the latest college in the California University system attempting to ban the use of the popular PC-to-PC VoIP service.

It’s Skype’s peer-to-peer architecture that has network administrators going round and round with students and faculty who want to use the popular service.

Essentially, when you join Skype you’re agreeing to allow Skype to forward traffic through your network. Network administrators are concerned about the potential for Skype to use significant bandwidth for traffic that has nothing to do with the university.

Universities are not alone in their concern about the impact of Skype on the network. Plenty of businesses have banned Skype for the same reasons, according to Nick Pegley V.P. Marketing at All Covered, a Redwood City, CA-based technology services company.

“Quite a few companies have stopped people from using Skype because by joining, your company starts to work as a part of a huge global network,” he explains. “You become part of the network operations of Skype.”

And that is a “completely reasonable concern,” says Simson Garfinkel, postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Research on Computation and Society at Harvard University. “Skype is a parasitic program,” he says. “Skype was designed to hijack users’ bandwidth so the company wouldn’t have to deploy its own network.”