“I basically had to plug my Ethernet cable in under my roommate’s bed, wrap it around the fridge, over here, wrap it through, then under the fridge, and it’s right here plugged into my computer. So it’s a 25 foot Ethernet cable,” said Montclair State freshman Nicole Diefenbacher.
Students complain day in and day out about the poor Wi-Fi connection throughout Montclair State University’s campus. The buzz around campus is full of stories of students having trouble completing a research paper because the Wi-Fi will not let them access Google or Canvas.
Students gripe that when paying a significant amount of money to attend this university, the least the university can do is provide decent Wi-Fi.
Some measures taken by students in order to provide gaurenteed Wi-Fi involve them taking money out of their own pockets to go and purchase an ethernet cable. The cheapest ethernet cable costs about $5 and a really nice cable can cost as much as $50. An ethernet cable is normally plugged into a desktop computer in order to receive Wi-Fi, but students on campus are now using these cables and plugging them into their laptops in order to ensure a strong wifi connection.
Diefenbacher dorms in Blanton and she made it clear that, “If the ethernet cable is not plugged into my HP, a little exclamation point pops up showing that the Internet connection is not secure.”
Students say they study best in their dorm room because that environment suits their study habits, but if the Internet connection is acting up in their dorm, they complain they have trouble submitting their work to Canvas on time because they cannot manage to get the server to load.
Alexis Sardella, a freshman, said, “I was having a stressful week so I decided to take advantage of my free time and head over to the library to complete a paper I had due that night. As I was mid researching, the Wi-fi suddenly stopped working, restricting me from continuing my research and not allowing me to complete my paper. Finally, 20 minutes later the website reloaded but the connection continued to go in an out. As a result, my paper was not completed to the best of my abilities, sooner or later having a negative impact on my grade.”
Jeff Giacobbe is the Associate Vice President of Enterprise Technology Services at MSU and he is responsible for the campus wired and wireless network. He said he’s aware of the issues bedeviling students are improvements are being made to address the problems.
“There are approximately 1,700, give or take a dozen, wireless access points, in other words 1,700 routers around campus including academic buildings, residence halls, and some of the open spaces,” Giacobbe said.
Almost half of the routers are located in the residence halls because of the higher density of students at one particular time, he said.
There are six controllers that manage all 1,700 routers and if one controller goes down, the other five controllers can pick up the slack with only a tiny time period of lost wireless service. In other words, each controller is linked to approximately 283 routers which could cause a slow Internet connection.
Giacobbe said that 90% of Wi-Fi is inbound and outbound Internet traffic which are what cause slow Wi-Fi connection. There percentage of traffic within the campus is low.
Another factor that is taxing the Internet is the college’s change from Blackboard – a local connection – to Canvas, which is a cloud service.
He said the Wi-Fi might be fine but when students complain Netflix or Youtube won’t load, it’s because the Internet pipe is saturated, it’s not the Wi-Fi itself.
He said the good news is Montclair State University was awarded a bond for a network upgrade project that was kicked off about two months ago.
This includes an upgrade on all of the college’s wired ports to the latest Cisco routers and switches as well as a replacement of the Meru wireless with Cisco wireless access points and controllers. This upgrade will allow more capacity which will create a quicker connection, Giacobbe said.
“Our hope is that it’s going to scale a lot better than what we have now and handle a lot more devices simultaneously and be the latest and greatest technology,” says Giacobbe.
Another problem that has students worried about their Internet connections is the plan for next semester: to transition rooms that sleep two students into rooms that sleep three students. They fear that adding more students to the already existing student population is going to make the poor Wifi connection even worse.
“As Blanton Hall dorm rooms start becoming triples, the Wi-Fi will most likely only get worse,” says current resident of Blanton Hall, Brianna Mobley. “It is already difficult to get on the Internet as it is with doubles.
In anticipation of this problem, Giacobbe said that the Information Technology Division is putting together a quick survery for students with simple questions including, “How many devices do you normally use,” “What’s your experience with this campus’s Wi-Fi good, bad, ugly,” to decide on whether the changes are creating the improvments that are needed around campus.
Montclair State | New Jersey