Wi-Fi on campus continues evolving

Illustration by Casey Kleeb

It’s 12:55 a.m. You’re still on campus working on an assignment for a class. The library is about to close for the evening, and you have luckily just finished your assignment. It’s time to email that puppy to your professor. There’s one problem — you can’t connect to the Wi-Fi on campus, and because you’re sans flash drive, you can’t email your work in with a library desktop.

That is exactly what happened to political science senior Fari Mang last week.

“All of a sudden I couldn’t email it to my instructor,” he said.

It’s not the first time he or other students on campus have had problems connecting to the Internet.

In July the campus upgraded their wireless infrastructure in response to student and employee requests for a more secure network and easier Wi-Fi accessibility.

Before the upgrade, users had to sign into the network for every session and only some information sent was encrypted, meaning not all information was secure.

Now, all information sent through the university Wi-Fi is encrypted and users only have to log onto the network once.

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“That worked well in the summer,” Rachel Waters, interim senior lead engineer for information technology services, said.

However, there was a 40 percent increase in the amount of people using the Wi-Fi from last fall to this fall.

“We’ve been deploying new access points that support a greater number of users,” she said.

However, the increase of wireless users on campus may not be the only cause of Internet access difficulties.

Waters said connectivity success varies depending on where a user is located, because access points to the Wi-Fi were distributed throughout campus to reflect the highest areas of traffic.

“When you connect, your phone or laptop is using a connection with one of our wireless access points,” she said.

In high traffic areas, access points have been maxing out, resulting in limited connectivity.


Other connectivity problems

“Some people just didn’t understand the change,” Waters said.

Despite an email sent to students detailing the change, news of the upgrade reported through the Green and Gold blog and other coordinated efforts through the Office of University Advancement, some people were still unaware of the upgrade.

For instance, a student should ideally be able to log onto the Anchorage Wi-Fi one time with their username and password and not have to do it again. They’re automatically resigned in every time they’re trying to connect.

However, to make this possible, students must accept a security certificate, which pops up automatically after that first log in — otherwise the option to connect to that wireless network does not appear again.

Students who did not know they had to accept the certificate found themselves in that position.

Also, some students have outdated software on their computer that does not support the new wireless network.

Some of these issues were addressed at the UAA Wireless Drop-in Workshops hosted earlier this month by IT Services.

Computer Science sophomore Dari Donkuro said he could not connect to the Wi-Fi on campus until he took his laptop to one of the workshops.

He’s not sure what the people hosting the workshop did to his computer, but said after he went to the workshop, “When I did it’s really wonderful. It’s fast.”

However, he said he still loses connection sometimes and has to relocate for a better signal.

Water said that could also be because some of the buildings on campus are “really old” and some places on campus are surrounded by cement, making the Wi-Fi signal more difficult to transmit to those areas.

She recommends anyone who missed the workshops to contact IT services at 907-786-4646 or visit the website for more information at www.uaa.alaska.edu/informationtechnologyservices/.

Videos about how to troubleshoot problems and instructional videos for using the new wireless are also available at https://kb.uaa.alaska.edu/Wiki%20Pages/Wireless%20Overview.aspx.