Campus News

Bethel works to improve Wi-Fi, students still frustrated

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It can run slower if you have an old microwave in your room. It can slow down if someone with a slower connection is using the internet in your room. It can delay your connectivity based on whether your walls are made out of brick or drywall. Whatever the reason, Wi-Fi connection speed is complex. “There’s so many variables,” said Oleg Zakusilov, the network administrator at Bethel College. The college has made efforts to accommodate the growing number of devices that use wireless internet. According to Zakusilov, the number of devices three years ago was significantly fewer- less students had cell phones or tablets that accessed the internet. To alleviate connectivity issues, Bethel College upgraded to a new system called “Aruba” over Christmas break of last year. Zakusilov said that the Aruba system can withstand a much greater load, as well as work smarter. “Aruba has good intelligence built into them,” he said. An algorithm that the system uses helps to give faster devices a speedier connection, according to Zakusilov. This helps to solve the problem of one slow connection within an access point causing all other devices to lag. In other words, it helps your Wi-Fi connection to reach its optimum performance, even if your roommate uses an old computer. According to James Hogue, the director of End User Services at Bethel College, the new server doubled their bandwidth from a “100 meg [megabyte] pipe to a 200 megabyte pipe.” But over the next semester peer-to-peer downloading shot up, causing the connection to slow down. Peer-to-peer downloading often equates to the illegal downloading of music or movies. Peer-to-peer “tries to consume as much bandwidth as possible,” according to Zakusilov. The downloading can be as innocent as downloading a video from Amazon or a game from Steam. In order to strike a balance between giving users the opportunity to legally download items and keeping connection speeds up for other users, the decision was made to put a “cap” on how much bandwidth could be taken up by a download. A movie that a student has purchased will still download, but it won’t slow down the connection of other users as much as it used to. Another effort to improve Wi-Fi speed was the decision to keep all video game consoles on a separate “SSID,” which Director of Educational Technology Todd Lemons describes as “a virtual access point.” That way, the consoles won’t slow down other’s internet experience. According to Lemons, the system is evaluated often to look for adjustments in configuration to improve Wi-Fi. “We look at it weekly, and we’re constantly making adjustments,” Lemons said. There are typically about 660 users each evening, Lemons said. He added that the school’s Wi-Fi is used most often at 9 p.m. and doesn’t taper down significantly until 1 a.m. Not all students believe that the wireless internet connection is improving. “I think it’s actually gotten slower [this semester],” freshman Darcy Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick cited slow connection, being disconnected without warning, and having difficulty reconnecting as the most common problems. She said that she has online assignments for her Spanish class that include videos, and she often has difficulty watching them. “I have to let them load for a while before I can actually do the homework,” Fitzpatrick said. One way students can improve their connectivity is through the use of Ethernet cables, according to Lemons. “If their rooms have Ethernet jacks, that will always be the fastest,” he said. Dorms that have Ethernet jacks include the Lodge, Sailor Hall and Brenneman.  Lemons said that he has “some supply of cables” for students who are interested. Some students have already taken advantage of their Ethernet jacks. Sophomore Zach VanHuisen uses an Ethernet cable, and said that he first got the idea from seeing classmates use the cable to play video games. “It’s definitely an improvement,” VanHuisen said. So what’s the best way students can improve connectivity? “Stop illegal downloads,” Zakusilov said. “I’m serious. That’s a lot of traffic.” Additionally, if students are having connectivity issues on a consistent basis, they are encouraged to call the I.T. department, Lemons said. “The biggest thing is I don’t want people to think that we don’t care,” Lemons said. “We do.”
Katy Boonstra and David Foura browse the internet in the computer lab. Photo by Alisha Greenlaw.
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