Administrators, students differ on Wi-Fi performance

Wireless Internet connection on campus continues to frustrate students who are having difficulty accessing their Blackboard accounts, e-books and other academic resources.

Thomas Barry, a senior economics major, said, “The Wi-Fi is awful. You would think the funding would allow for better Internet. I don’t pay this tuition to not be able to do my homework on Blackboard.”

Naomi Zingher, a senior English Major, said, “I leave home and I no longer have Wi-Fi. I only have Wi-Fi on weekends when everyone goes home.”

Erin Ostromecky, a senior psychology major, said, “The Wi-Fi in my room only works in one corner and it stinks. It takes forever to load Youtube.”

Director of Systems and Network Services Mike Zinkus said, in the summer of 2013, “We brought in a third-party company to make an assessment of our wireless campus-wide.” He explained the central issue was the number of wireless devices per person.

“It used to be that a student only had a laptop,” said Zinkus. “Now, they have a laptop, a smart phone, a tablet. So what used to be one device is now three or four. That causes issues with density.”

Over the summer, Framingham State University’s Information Technology Services staff installed over 100 new access points, part of a three-year project, according to Zinkus.

An access point is a small, round device that is ceiling mounted, and looks similar to a smoke detector. There are currently 450 of these access points strategically placed around campus, according to Zinkus. The ITS Department’s goal is to reach 900 access points on campus, at a price of $400 apiece.

“On the low end, we’re spending about $500,000, and on the high end, we’re spending about $1,000,000,” said Zinkus. “That’s between equipment cabling, installation, configuration, licensing and man hours. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

The assessment also drew attention to the Internet bandwidth on campus. Last fall, ITS increased campus bandwidth from 300 megabits to 500 megabits. Zinkus is looking to double campus bandwidth to 1 gigabit, which will actually save $30,000 a year once FSU solicits competitive bids from multiple companies.

These bandwidth changes will be completed by the beginning of spring semester, according to Zinkus. “What we’re looking at doing is increasing bandwidth and reducing costs,” he said.

In the Nov. 1, 2013 issue of The Gatepost, Zinkus said last year’s annual bandwidth cost was $218,200. This year, he said, the figure was closer to $250,000.

Although the bandwidth has increased, the satisfaction level of some student users has actually decreased as they experience errors in loading and fragmented videos both inside and outside the classroom.

“I couldn’t get on Blackboard for the first three days I was in my room,” said senior business major Justin Rainer. “I even had to go to Best Buy to buy a router. It’s kind of ridiculous, you know? I have to take out loans to go to school, and I can’t even get good Internet without paying extra. It’s not even like I was trying to watch Netflix or anything. I could not get on Blackboard.”

Junior history major Chris Mini said he has trouble accessing “Blackboard assignments and researching information on the Internet when it’s crunch time and the Internet isn’t working because everyone is on it. I think professors and students should have separate Wi-Fi. That’s what we did at my old school, and it worked a lot better than here.”

Melissa Knox, a senior biology major, said, “I bought a modem because the Wi-Fi was so bad. … All the RAs here had to spend over $80 on modems.”

She added, “My professor advised that we buy an e-book, and I actually had to email him telling him I couldn’t read because the Internet was so bad. Last year it was so much better, and it was terrible last year.”

Seinor criminology major Victoria Sepavich said, “I was told once that it would cost $5 to put routers in every room, … The school could do better and it knows it.”

Sophomore biology major Sydney Herrell said, “Blackboard never works because it’s so slow. I have online quizzes and tests that I have to take, and I have to go find a computer that is hooked up to the Internet, because I can’t do it in my room.”

When it comes to issues with the Internet, Zinkus commented, “I think a lot of times, it gets blamed on wireless or Wi-Fi, when it isn’t wireless or Wi-Fi process. For example, if a student has a virus and their computer is running slow, that not only affects them, but it affects everyone connected to that access point.”

Network and Telecommunications Manager Corey Hobbs said the IT department receives minimal complaints.

“We really do encourage people to contact us. … We take these complaints very seriously,” said Hobbs. “If no one tells us there is a problem, how are we supposed to fix it?”

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