A city a spokesperson said 97 workers were caught logging onto streaming websites on the job.
Doug Miller , KHOU 11 News 2:07 p.m. EDT May 9, 2015
When you think about city employees at work, you might picture burly guys driving garbage trucks or fixing potholes.
What you probably don’t picture are people sitting around cubicles watching “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” while on the clock.
But it seems some workers on the city of Houston payroll have been streaming movies and TV shows when they’re supposed to be hard at work. And the city’s IT department has taken steps to shut them down.
Although the mayor’s office couldn’t immediately determine how many employees, if any, faced disciplinary action, a spokesperson said 97 workers were caught logging onto streaming websites on the job.
“They were signing on for possibly as much as two hours at a time, which means that they were catching up maybe on last night’s prime time TV shows or watching movies,” said Janice Evans, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office.
The investigation began last December, when IT workers in the city’s Public Works Department noticed something peculiar. It seemed their computer system was sucking up an awful lot of bandwidth.
So the city’s IT technicians ran a week-long test in January and February involving a number of city departments. They discovered that city employees had logged onto streaming websites about 400 times.
“Over the last seven days alone, inbound traffic from Netflix, Comcast and Hulu amounted to over 700 GB,” said a memo from David LaPlante, the city’s chief information security officer.
It’s hard to tell how much time city employees have spent streaming movies – that depends on a number of variables, like whether video streams in low-definition or high-definition – but KHOU’s in-house tech guy, Doug Delony, roughly estimates the workers caught in that test watched up to 400 hours of TV shows and movies in a single week.
“You would think with most organizations and companies that they would block websites that aren’t needed,” Delony said. “They would block them by default. But there’s not telling why they didn’t. It could be a technical reason or it could just be they didn’t do it.”
Now the city has blocked Netflix and Hulu from the computers in a dozen departments. It’s in the process of cutting those streaming websites off from almost all city computers, Evans said, although some places – like fire stations – might still be allowed to access those sites.
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