High traffic has campus Wi-Fi on the fritz

Consistent and reliable wireless Internet has been a persistent issue at St. Thomas University. It is common for the Wi-Fi to work fine one day, slow another or inaccessible the next.

Bryanna MacNeil, a student at STU, said the Internet problem is preventing her from getting her work done.

“The Internet usually shuts off when I need it the most, like when I need to do an assignment, reading or homework,” said MacNeil.

“It’s getting to the point where I can’t even do work at STU, which is where I get a good chunk of my work done during breaks.”

She said this problem happens frequently in James Dunn Hall, but also in classrooms around campus where a large majority of students couldn’t access the Internet to complete class assignments.

Dan Hurley is the information technology services director for STU. He said the team is aware of the problem and focusing on JDH as the benchmark for improving the network.

“We’ve perceived that there’s probably more people having trouble connecting than we’ve seen in the past, so we’ve done a lot of work with the hardware vendor to help us on this,” said Hurley.

Software updates were made to the access points around JDH on Tuesday last week, which Hurley said should help increase the load the access points can handle.

“If we see good results through the early part of next week it may mean that it’s a good solution and we can replicate that in the other areas of campus,” he said.

“If not, we’re going back to the vendor to get them to give us some more ideas.”

JDH has the highest levels of traffic out of any building on STU’s campus. The building boasts upwards of 1,000 clients connected and upwards of 200 connections to each access point, which is close to their designed maximum.

“We can put more access points in, but then you run in to radio-frequency interference problems,” said Hurley.

“It’s a balancing game to get enough access points to support the load, but if you put too many in there’s to much radio-frequency noise and it makes the problem worse.”

One issue is the number of devices connected to the network, but the main factor plaguing the network is the bandwidth use of these devices in concentrated areas.

The main use of the Internet by students is for social media and streaming services, with Facebook videos, Instagram, Facebook in general and Netflix topping the list.

“If people were spread out over more access points, that would be easy to deal with, but it’s when you have a concentration of people that it becomes a problem.”

The estimated budget for upgrades to the network is around $21-thousand and Hurley said it’s possible that next year they will upgrade to higher capacity access points in JDH.

Hurley said some problems have easy fixes, but they need to be made aware of them. He encourages students to contact the IT help desk if they are having issues in certain areas or entire classes are unable to access the wireless.

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