Ruckus Network chairman and chief executive William J. Raduchel was formerly a Harvard University faculty member. In a report in the Nov. 1 Washington Business section, "Raduchel" and the company name "Ruckus" were mistakenly reversed in a description of that affiliation. (Published 11/2/04)

A new Herndon start-up is hoping to make a ruckus in the college community.

Ruckus Network, fresh from its Oct. 1 launch, offers colleges and universities a subscription-based service that provides legal music and movie downloads for their students.

"The kids in college today experience broadband unlike [other] consumers because they have better connections and they're more likely to use broadband as a principal source of entertainment," said William J. Raduchel, chairman and chief executive. Raduchel, former chief technology officer of AOL Time Warner Inc. and a former Sun Microsystems executive, said Ruckus fit naturally into his interests. He was recruited by venture capitalists looking for a chief executive for the company that was the brainchild of two former Massachusetts Institute of Technology students, Vincent Han and David Galper.

Ruckus, who was a Harvard University faculty member, hopes to reach students where they spend the majority of their time: at their desktops.

Ruckus also is working with college administrators to provide university content including student-written editorials and reviews, pictures from campus, local songs and videos as well as academic material. "Students are too often passing through instead of being part of the university community," Raduchel said. "College sports, the student newspaper and student radio stations don't have the draw they once did."

Many students download music and movie files illegally from a variety of shady Internet sites, risking prosecution and virus-infected hard drives. Ruckus wants to offer a one-click, legal option for students to get their digital entertainment.

The company has licensing agreements with music labels SonyBMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. It also has a catalogue of 2,500 movies, 50 of which are made available to a school at any one time. To distribute the content on campus networks, Ruckus must navigate a virtual quagmire of copyright issues while simultaneously catering to each school's individual wants and needs. It's not a one-size-fits-all service. "You have to work with the schools," Raduchel said. "We have to help each school solve their problems."

Schools typically pay less than $10 per student per month for access to the service. Once a school signs up, Ruckus installs servers on its campus, taking advantage of high-speed Internet connections to pipe the digital entertainment content to dorm rooms. In addition to music and on-demand movie downloads, Ruckus provides programmed entertainment, including playlists that are updated four times a day and tailored toward what students are interested in at that time of the day or week. "We're evolving toward the concept of MTV and deejays," Raduchel said.

Music and movies might just be the beginning of Ruckus's offerings. "As we talk to our schools and figure out what works, we'll do it all over time," Raduchel said. Students could eventually share photos, maintain online blogs and download video games through the Ruckus service. Raduchel hopes to have between 10 and 20 schools signed up by this time next year, but he says his biggest challenge so far has been learning patience. "You can't walk into a university and say this is a great idea and have them say, 'You're right, let's buy.' You have to educate them, it's learning to adapt a start-up mentality."

Patience aside, Raduchel sees a bright future for the digital media market at higher education institutions. "I think that schools will all have some form of digital-media-based community in three years," he said. "You need to speak to students on the desktop. You can't run an institution unless your kids have things in common."

Broadband appeals more to students, Ruckus Network chief executive William J. Raduchel says.Ryan Lusk uses Ruckus Network to legally download his favorite music in his Northern Illinois University dormitory room.