How is UAA improving the Wi-Fi situation?

Ask anyone on campus about UAA’s Internet services, responses will range from middling at best …

“It’s honestly hit or miss,” said Connor Budahl, a student at UAA. “Some days, it’s great, but other days, it’s terrible.”

… to terrible at worst.

“It’s slow as hell,” said Mike Miller, a computer science student at UAA. “During midday, it gets so slow that there is almost no point in using it. UAA should have improved it by now.”

These are complaints that aren’t going unheard. Pat Shier, the chief information officer for UAA’s IT Services, has acknowledged that UAA’s Wi-Fi situation could stand to be better.

“In my opinion, based on what I hear from users, Wi-Fi at UAA needs improvement,” Shier said.

Contrary to popular belief among some students, Internet service on campus has improved markedly in the last few years.  But despite the massive amounts of bandwidth UAA purchases monthly, UAA students can still exhaust that allowance.

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“Our current Wi-Fi infrastructure … is in good condition and is relatively fast, but Internet congestion and lack of strong Wi-Fi in more locations are factors our folks are addressing right now,” Shier said. “Just two weeks ago, we paid to increase UAA’s Internet bandwidth by another 10 percent, to just over 505 megabits per second, in an effort to relieve some of the congestion that makes the Wi-Fi appear slow.”

However, with budget cuts on the minds of students on campus, even improving UAA’s Internet access can seem like a daunting proposition.

“With the upcoming budget cuts, I am worried that even if (UAA) did come up with a plan, they would be unable to implement it,” Miller said. “They would have to throttle access to specific sites or users if they went over a certain usage, for example.”

According to Shier, the throttling idea is an option on the table.

“Even though most of our Wi-Fi network is capable of speeds far faster than most portable devices can achieve, if many of those users are streaming data-intensive content — like video — from the Internet, it will seem as if  the network is slow when the true bottleneck exists elsewhere,” Shier said. “The University Technology Council recently considered a recommendation to reduce the amount of Internet bandwidth available to certain kinds of traffic at certain times of day. For example, limiting the amount of Internet bandwidth used for Netflix streaming movies during class times or blocking some BitTorrent video and music sharing traffic.”

Many elements factor into solving the issue, and a lot of money. The aforementioned 10 percent bandwidth increase will cost UAA $2,000 a month.

The university is throwing tons of money and ideas at solving the problem.  In particular, student housing director David Weaver has been taking the initiative to improve Internet access for students living at the university.  Despite efforts, it will take both time and money to improve Internet access for students — and in today’s landscape, that may or may not be enough for some.