My correspondence today is in response to the article “Students Struggle with WiFi Issues” in the April 11 issue of the student newspaper. As we have detailed in a previous letter to the editor, Springfield College takes very seriously all college technology issues, including the wireless network. As noted in the article, Information Technology Services (ITS) has worked diligently to improve our wireless network and will continue to take all reasonable measures to ensure reliability and acceptable access speeds.
However, there were several specific points listed in the article that need to be qualified, which I will address in reverse order. First, server capacity is not related to providing wireless network access. However, network switching and routing infra-structure does relate to wireless network access and is constantly monitored and reviewed to ensure peek optimization. In the case of International Hall, we have completely replaced the switching and routing equipment in favor of the latest technology.
Second, increasing bandwidth would only enable modest improvements which would not be noticeable to most end users. Currently, Springfield College has a bandwidth of 325 MB per second to the Internet. This compares to 3 MB per second for the best of DSL services and up to 20 MB per second for most cable television providers. Although the college’s 325 MB is shared, the college employs Internet traffic management assets to dynamically ensure internet traffic optimization enabling the full use of the bandwidth.
The article correctly states and our logs continuously show that our bandwidth usage levels are high from 8 p.m. until around 2 a.m., with gaming and internet video services like Netflix consuming the largest bandwidth volume by far. Many colleges have eliminated or curtailed these types of services which are an option for Springfield College that would vastly improve the wireless network performance. However, the college views the residence halls as our student’s residence and believes that this action would lead to much more student dissatisfaction if these services were eliminated.
Another consideration is that the internet is a large, complex technology cloud comprised of a sea of diverse electronics. Often sites may not perform as expected due to circumstances outside of the influence of Springfield College. Netflix is an excellent example as the internet has numerous sites which document poor user satisfaction and performance issues related to Netflix. Simply stated, difficulty in accessing a site may not have anything to do with Springfield College and its networks.
Third, limiting the number of wireless devices per student is also something we can do. However, limiting these devices has also resulted in significant student dissatisfaction as reported by other institutions that have enacted such policies. For the same reason above, the college has resisted this path and fully expects to achieve an acceptable operational balance.
As previously reported in the student newspaper, we have responded promptly to every request of service and have remained in contact with Residence Directors/Assistants to fully understand and resolve wireless issues. However, in reference to this article, our records indicate only one occurrence of a request for assistance from the TSC by the author which was unrelated to the wireless network. Also, the reference to “heard from a number of people” is problematic as we have aggressively pursued all requests for assistance to the TSC and have taken immediate steps to strengthen the wireless network where reports and our discovery indicated an issue.
The point here is that we need to hear from students at the point they are having a wireless issue to effectively identify the root cause. Students can call the TSC at 413-748-4872, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org stating the problem, or walk-in to Babson Library Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, or noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. If we do not hear about problems specifics from students, it is difficult to identify problem characteristics that can lead to meaningful and prompt resolutions to network issues.
In closing, we take this matter very seriously. We have made numerous enhancements to the wireless network this year and will continue to do so. There are plans this summer to enhance Gulick and Abbey-Appleton Halls, the Townhouses, the Living Center and the Living Center Annex. Currently, International, Reed, Massasoit and Alumni Halls have been enhanced and are being monitored to gage enhancement success.
Danny Davis / CIO