Campus Wi-Fi a growing issue

William Evans

The rapidly changing nature of wireless Internet technology will keep the University’s Office of Information Technology on its toes as enrollment rises to 35,000 by 2020 and more users with wireless devices must be accounted for, said Christina Frantom, director of public relations for OIT.

Despite integrating upgrades into its wireless Internet service in the 2009-10 academic year and expanding wireless connectivity to most areas of campus, the University has had to respond to reports of poor Internet connection from users across campus, according to a report from OIT.

The chief culprit is the inflation in users without the capacity to handle the growth, according to the report.

For a single access point of Internet coverage, 30 users are recommended for quality wireless connection. The University now has 1,395 access points, and 21 percent have shown peaks of usage above the recommended limit, with some peaking above 100 users, according to the report.

For instance, access points in Mary Hewell Alston Hall peaked above 200 users from October though January for this academic year.

With the current state of technology in place, the University will have to do its best until new technology can be purchased.

“For situations where capacity is exceeded, there may or may not be any technical mitigation possible,” according to the report. “It is not always possible to place more access points in a confined area because when the maximum density is exceeded, the access points begin to interfere with each other. So in these instances, some of which we are experiencing at UA, we have reached the technical limit of current Wi-Fi technology.”

Frantom said OIT communicates with wireless Internet technology vendors to determine when the latest technology will appear on the market.

“We are certainly hoping for new technology to come to the forefront,” she said. “We are going to have to do everything we can with the current technology.”

Until better wireless Internet technology surfaces, OIT encourages students to be aware of ways they can improve the quality of wireless internet connection, Frantom said.

Students who own smart phone devices that search for Internet connections should turn off their Wi-Fi option when not using the Internet, she said.

David Wilson, the Student Government Association’s executive vice president of student affairs, said students could switch their smart phones from the Wi-Fi option to 3G, which makes use of cell phone towers rather than connecting to the University’s Internet service.

Students should also refrain from bringing to campus their own wireless routers, which degrade the performance of the campus network by slowing it down and causing intermittent drops in Internet access, according to an OIT report.

“Currently, there are over 75 rogue access points where students are using these wireless routers on campus,” according to the report. “OIT networking technicians are trying to shut down these routers. These routers are not permitted on the campus network because of how they negatively affect service.”