UI still faces wireless problems despite reconfiguration

BY DORA GROTE | AUGUST 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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Staring blankly into a computer screen, students at the University of Iowa are linked to frustration.

Wireless Internet connection problems still occur in the residence halls even after the UI Information Technology Services spent more than $500,000 over the last two summers to improve overall coverage and capacity.

But from Aug. 14 to Aug. 27, approximately 900 students still reported Internet problems. Roughly the same number reported problems in the fall of 2010.

Ethan Simmons, 17, is frustrated with his wireless connection in the dorm rooms.

“I just can’t get connected,” he said while riding the elevator in Slater this past weekend. “I can get connected at IT, but when I come back here, it doesn’t work.”

And Scott Leeman, the ITS IT manager, said connection problems can be narrowed down to three reasons.

“One, there is a large population trying to utilize the network,” he said. “Two, there are numerous devices trying to connect, such as smart phones and laptops. Three, the university has a very tight security protocol.”

Students accessing the network normally do not have the same level of security at home and in addition, they are sharing the network with hundreds of other people, Leeman said.

The UI implemented wireless technology in the 10 residence hall buildings during the summer of 2010 at a cost of $418,600, Leeman said.

An additional $175,000 was spent this summer for upgrades, including adding 120 additional access points in the residence halls.

Last year, students were allowed to have their own routers in dorm rooms, but officials said those devices interfered with the university’s network. Now, students are prohibited from keeping routers in their dorm rooms.

One front-desk worker at Slater has seen minimal changes in connectability from last year.

“I have heard a lot of complaints, and people are still buying ethernet cords,” said Stephen Garcia, 21.

Consumer devices also play a negative role. Such items as game consoles, microwaves, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices cramped into a small dorm room interfere with the signal.

However, Garcia noticed that the connection has spread out a little from last year.

“Last year, I had to push my computer out from my desk to even connect, but this year I can connect from inside,” he said.

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