The details of how campus internet works (or doesn’t work)

By Alex Hoffman

(Illustration by Christian Washington)

Becca McIlwain, a junior resident of Forester Village, logs on to Moodle in her apartment. She types a response to a question, clicks send and the Internet promptly dies.

This is a common scene for the residents of Forester Village who try to use the Internet in their apartments. Because her Spanish homework is all online, McIlwain said that she has to go elsewhere because the Internet in her apartment is too unreliable.

“In the apartments,” McIlwain said, “we only get Internet in certain areas, and it’s frustrating because sometimes the area that’s getting Internet isn’t really the area that is available.”

Not all students, however, are experiencing an unreliable Internet service. Kendall Bates, a senior resident of Miller Hall, said that his Internet experience has been pretty good this year compared to others, but noted that this may be because he doesn’t try to use the Wi-Fi.

Bates, who uses the Internet for video streaming, online gaming and Web browsing, said that he always uses the wired Ethernet connection for his Internet.

“I rarely use the Wi-Fi,“ Bates said, “particularly because freshman year I had such bad experiences with the Wi-Fi.”

Gary Campbell, Director of Technology Services, said that Internet repair requests have been lower this year than in previous years due partly to Roush and Baker Halls being wired to provide the dorm rooms with Ethernet ports. This allows students to connect their computers and video game consoles to the Internet via an Ethernet cable, which lightens the load on the wireless network.

While all of the dorms now have wired Ethernet ports available, Forester Village does not.

“Forester Village is a different animal,“ said Campbell, “because on campus all the dorms are connected by fiber. There’s fiber cable running underground into switches in the residence halls. There is no fiber that runs to Forester Village, it’s telephone cables buried underneath the ground.”

Because the copper telephone cable connection that goes to Forester Village is so long, the signal is weakened by the time it reaches the access points that the Forester Village residents connect to. This would not be a problem if the telephone cables were replaced with fiber optic cable because the fiber optic cable uses light to transmit the signal.
“For the amount of money we spend to attend this university, there are a number of things that should be improved, the Internet being one of these,” McIlwain said.

“Believe it or not, we want students to report problems,” Campbell said.

Campbell said that the current plan is to replace the telephone cables with fiber optic cables and install wired Ethernet ports in Forester Village next summer. In the meantime Technology Services is looking at possible interim solutions.

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