As more students are bringing multiple devices to campus than they did five years ago when the wireless network system was implemented, Wi-Fi performance has not been meeting students’ expectations. Information Technology Services plans to implement a site survey of Internet access points this fall to identify areas needing improvement and map out an upgrade plan.
Beth Rugg, assistant director of technology and instructional support services, published an update on Intercom Tuesday introducing the upgrade plan in response to concerns over Wi-Fi performance.
Freshman Devin Ploof said he has experienced difficulties with the Internet since he first arrived on campus.
“Every time I try to get on my phone, the Wi-Fi usually doesn’t work,” Ploof said. “I can’t check my email to see what my professor is trying to tell me, and I can’t go on Sakai and do online quizzes.”
Rugg said ITS has rarely heard from students about concerns over the Wi-Fi service, but it is aware of the problem because of several complaints it has received from faculty members.
Students are welcome to contact the ITS Helpdesk and provide details about the issues they are having, but students should not expect immediate actions from ITS, Rugg said.
“Let’s say students aren’t happy with the wireless in Textor 102,” Rugg said. “We can’t run down with a Wi-Fi access point to put it in place and solve the problem immediately.”
Mike Testa, director of infrastructure and communication services, said Wi-Fi performance also varies depending on the device being used.
“Technology and chips that’s used within the devices will vary by the manufacturer,” Testa said. “If you set two devices side by side, hitting the same access point, they can behave differently.”
Ploof said he needs to reconnect to the network on his laptop every few minutes, but his mobile device has a bigger problem.
“I can never connect anything to my phone, especially in the general walking area. That’s when I have the most problems,” Ploof said.
Rugg said wireless Internet itself is more unpredictable than a traditional wired network. It might be helpful for students to understand the complexities ITS faces, Rugg said.
“Wireless is like driving down a one-way road: You can only go so fast,” Rugg said. “If you try to do it any different, you’re gonna have collisions and problems.”
According to Rugg, the increased number of devices students are bringing to campus exceed the wireless network’s capacity.
“Five years ago, we’d be lucky if half of the students were bringing their laptop to campus,” Rugg said. “Now, many students are bringing multiple devices to campus, so our wireless network isn’t designed to handle that kind of volume. Now we need to do some work so it can meet the current demand by the student.”
Rugg said ITS is aware of the situation and is working to find solutions that will enhance the Wi-Fi performance.
“We know there’s a problem with the wireless, we know it’s not meeting students’ expectations,” Rugg said. “We are working on a plan to remediate that, the plan will cost time — it will take some money.”
Testa said ITS is going to bring in outside vendors to conduct a site survey analysis across campus in order to determine the best way to provide coverage and support the capacity of the network.
“Once that’s done, that would provide the roadmap for how to then go into each facility and make whatever changes that’s necessary, whether it’s adding access point or removing access point,” Testa said.
Testa said the upgrade process will begin when the survey analysis is complete.
“Our hope is to have our survey done by this fall semester and work with the administration to find out how to fund it, and then we will identify a priority level of the buildings,” Testa said.
The wireless upgrade will prioritize academic buildings and then move into mixed-use buildings where many students access the Internet. The final updates will be in administrative buildings.
Testa was not able to give a definite date on when these surveys will be done and when changes will take place.
“It’s not yet quite known whether it will be finished by the end of the fall semester, but we definitely want to have a good start on it,” he said.