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UI grapples with wireless internet complaints

BY LAUREN COFFEY | AUGUST 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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As the line outside the Information Technology Service help center begins to grow, so does University of Iowa freshman Kate McCann’s frustration about her Internet connection.

“I can’t connect with the Internet — it connected the first couple of days and then just canceled out,” she said. “I have to use my Ethernet computer cord to connect. It’s just frustrating when I want to use it in a classroom.”

McCann is one of more than 1,000 students in the past two weeks who have had questions regarding the wireless system on-campus. However, this is not any change from last year, before the UI adopted Eduroam, the new wireless system, on May 21.

“There have been some snags with wireless recently, and ITS has been troubleshooting with our wireless vendor and replacing equipment to get those resolved,” said Nicole Riehl, the ITS strategic communication manager. “We swapped out 18 controllers this week, and that has made a big difference.”

The controllers have been the cause of the trouble with students connecting to the Internet — not the switch to Eduroam. Now that they are replaced, the number of complaints from students has significantly decreased.

University officials implemented Eduroam in May in addition to the UI-Wireless-WPA2 server. These two servers are essentially the same, officials said.

“There is very little difference between Eduroam and UI-Wireless-WPA2,” ITS Director of Network Services Steve Troester said. “It’s like having one building have two different names.”

ITS officials encourage staff and students to use Eduroam, for when the UI transitions completely to the single server starting Nov. 1. Having two servers doesn’t cost UI officials any extra.

When classes started this year, it became difficult for students, faculty, and staff to maintain a wireless connection — and many people thought Eduroam was to blame.

Tracy Scott, the ITS user support and education manager, said it is normal for many students to have questions about the wireless system, such as how to set it up and passwords needed — they’re never related to the server for the wireless system.

He also said to keep in mind that the wireless system does have to adjust to the increase in student activity now that the school year has started.

“There are people with computers, cell phones, iPads, all using the system,” Scott said. “Think of the wireless system you use at your house with your parents — that works just fine. Our system is designed and architected to withhold all of the [activity], but you guys are spread out. If 20,000 people went to the IMU, the system wouldn’t work as well.”

UI officials originally decided to switch to Eduroam because the server can be used across other college campuses that have it as well, making connecting to wireless much easier for both visitors to the UI and officials who travel to other colleges.

For the future, ITS hopes to have a system set up that would help people who would not typically use Eduroam.

“We plan to stick with Eduroam,” Scott said. “We hope to have a guest account access, for people who wouldn’t be a part of Eduroam like a parent or outside vendor;that scenario is next on our radar.”


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