“We actually doubled the speed around four years ago,” said Ben Lim, vice president of the IT Department. “At first it was very well received, because not so many devices were connected to it.”
Despite the upgrade, Lim said that they’re receiving more and more complaints. “The decrease in perceived speed has to do with the number of devices on the connection.”
“The issues that students come to us with deal mainly with buffering or a weak Wi-Fi signal,” said Scott Ireland, director of IT infrastructure.
“For instance, any type of video being watched online has to be downloaded,” said Tad Humphrey, telecom specialist. “Because of this, any type of video is a bandwidth hog.”
It seems that one of the biggest battles that students fight online is buffering, which can take quite a long time. “First of all, 400 students all watching Netflix at the same time slows it down,” said Lim. “You would have this same issue, even at home.”
Simply put, the less students watching videos at the same time, the faster the video will buffer and play. For example, bandwidth consumption late at night or early in the morning is much less, because less students are using it.
“There’s not an easy answer to the problem, and not just one answer can be given,” said Lim. “We understand that there is congestion, but communications between students on who watches Netflix and who studies would greatly help the problem.”
Shortly before the end of last semester, students received emails about the Internet connection being down during break because of maintenance. “There was work being done on power, so we took the opportunity to move our equipment to a centralized location downstairs,” said Ireland. “It gives us an option for a backup generator in the future.”
“The city has had some recent short utility outages, causing some of our equipment to not come up properly,” said Humphrey. “We’re not aware of all of these issues and its very time consuming to check all sources on a daily basis.” As with any technical issue, contact from students when a bad connection occurs is greatly appreciated.
“The sooner the help desk knows about the problem, the sooner we can help the students,” said Ireland. “It’s strongly recommended.”
The recent disconnections in the residence halls such as Cole, Broadhurst and Reid were purposefully done. “Those disconnections were part of a fiber optic permanent repair on a couple of splices,” said Humphrey. “It was working fine, but we thought it would be best to use the fusion splicer to permanently fix connections so we wouldn’t run into problems in the future. We kind of ran out of time the previous week, so we decided that this week would be the best time to do it.”
“Although there is no main problem overall, the main issue that we hear about is buffering,” said Lim. “This is once again due to congestion and the overuse of the available bandwidth.” Lim described the issue as having too many cars and not a wide enough road, resulting in a traffic jam. “We’re trying to look at infrastructure as whole, figuring out better ways to organize flow,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not just one big thing, but a number of little things. We’re taking small steps to manage it better.”
“At our peak, we’re consuming about 90% of our bandwidth from downloads,” said Ireland. “The system is dynamic, so changes we make can affect everyone, even small changes. We have to be careful on the changes we do make, so we don’t make a negative one.” Ireland continued by saying that bandwidth congestion changes constantly and is completely unpredictable.
“I’ve worked for other service providers, and as a whole, they experience the same issues that we’re having here,” said Ireland. “We just have to continue making constant changes in the networks. It’s a continual deal.”
Despite the campus having a wireless connection, students aren’t able to receive that connection everywhere. “The main areas include residence halls, classrooms, the library, and certain hotspots in other buildings,” said Ireland. “It’s not available in every hallway, not every office space and not walking to class. However, key areas are covered.”
“Originally, the connection could only be received in classrooms, but we expanded towards dorms,” said Humphrey. “We’re continually adding access points, expanding the coverage every year.”
“We see and hear the problem. They are capital and design issues,” said Lim. “Some we can take care of, some not. We’re working on different strategies to solve the problems. Some will be solved soon, others not.”
“In fact we’ve made some changes in the last 24 hours,” said Humphrey. “Should definitely notice some now as opposed to last semester as well.”
Dalton Carver is a freshman majoring in Communication. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.