WC Students Suffer Wireless Woes

By Eric Dubrow

Elm Staff Writer

Although Washington College is constantly updating its wireless internet network, the connection issues remain something of a sore subject for students on campus.

“The wireless is crap, frankly. It’s embarrassingly bad,” said sophomore Chris Cronin. “I don’t use the wireless at all anymore, just because I don’t trust it.”

While many are annoyed with the slowness of the network as well as the inability to connect to it, the college is doing everything it can to provide an immediate and suitable update. In an e-mail to the college, President Mitchell Reiss wrote, “We have researched the issues and have developed a plan for an upgrade to the wireless network. The upgrade will start with the core of the wireless system being replaced over winter break. Everyone should see improvement in the wireless system once that is completed. The new wireless core will bring faster processing of data on the wireless network.” In that same e-mail, Reiss said that academic spaces would receive better access points, and that over the summer of 2011, the residence halls would gain additional access points as well.

That last renovation to the network should please many students, since they see it as the best solution to this problem. When asked what the college could do improve connectivity, junior Benjamin de Seingalt said, “More hubs. More hubs make everything faster.”

While students do vocalize their complaints, the reality is that the fault does not lie entirely with the school. According to Associate Chief Information Officer Cal Coursey, recently more students have been using types of internet access that slow the network down.

He wrote in an email, “This semester has seen a large increase in the number of students asking for “gaming access” to the Internet. Also, many students have multiple devices that constantly access the Internet such as smart phones, iPods, iPads, etc. Those access types use large amounts of bandwidth and therefore impact the available bandwidth for all college internet users.”

Apart from the present strain students are putting on the wireless network, Coursey also wrote that lack of internet availability from providers is a major obstacle to WC’s efforts. “The college tried to obtain a 10-fold increase in internet access during the summer of 2010, but the local carrier could not provide it because they do not have the requisite equipment in place,” he said.

However, that new equipment should be arriving in Chestertown in January in the form of a new cable path, though the school will have to wait until it is finished before trying to obtain more internet access.

A wired connection remains a viable alternative to the patchy wireless network, advised Coursey. “Generally, the wired network is faster and more resilient than the wireless network, and should provide better on-campus service.”

However, a wired connection is not ideal for those students who don’t want to be tethered to an ethernet jack. Junior Sean Meade said, “I do not it would be great to have decent wireless here, to be able to get out and do work wherever you wanted to. Having to get plugged into the wall really impedes that.”

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