Tweets express ECWireless issues

by Victoria Bedford / Beacon Staff • December 1, 2011

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@OccupyECWireles was created to aggregate complaints about Emerson's wireless network
@OccupyECWireles was created to aggregate complaints about Emerson's wireless network

Despite a system overhaul, a new network name, and frequent maintenance, the college’s wireless Internet continues to draw the ire of students, who let loose a barrage of tweets, Facebook posts and verbal frustration nearly every time the system fails.

Ryan Catalani, a freshman visual and media arts major and the Beacon’s web editor, created @OccupyECWireles in late November to aggregate the complaints and questions about the faulty system. As a tweet from Catalani said, “99% of @EmersonCollege students are tired of getting Internet 1% of the time.” 

The @OccupyECWireles Twitter account has re-tweeted innumerable cries for help from Emerson students. A tweet from Rose Fieschko’s on Nov. 21 read, “The lack of Internet in the Colonial over the weekend doesn’t further communications and the arts.”

After a system failure on Nov. 18 and 19 left residence halls without wireless, complaints to Information Technology increased.  

However, the issue with the wireless is not a wireless problem at all. Richard Grossman, director of technology and communication, explained that the problem was a larger conflict with the server. 

“It’s actually much worse than you think,” Grossman said.

According to Grossman, Emerson’s Internet system works on a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server called Netreg, which assigns IP addresses to computers within the network. Netreg connects all the computers on to the same server, supporting the entire Internet connection for the college.

This old system, which caused the uproar of complaints from students, broke down on Saturday, Nov. 19, and administrators got it running, only to have it break down again that evening.

After the second server crash, Grossman said his department did not try to get the system to run because they were uncertain of whether it could remain functional. 

The DHCP server connected both the wireless and the wired Internet connections, so even connecting with an Ethernet Cable was rendered impossible. But, that was the old system.

Over Thanksgiving break, Grossman said a new installation arrived. 

“Rather than relying on a single piece of hardware, we have a new virtual system,” Grossman said. “We don’t like single-fault systems.”

EC Wireless still runs on Netreg, the DHCP server, but now it’s on a virtual “BladeCenter.” If the DHCP server fails, each “blade”—a kind of storage device for servers—can store it and back it up, Grossman explained. 

Bill Blanchette, a sophomore visual and media arts major, explained his confusion about exactly why Emerson suffers with such a  wireless problem.

“There’s gotta be a more efficient way. I don’t know a lot about computers, so I can’t really criticize it, but I’m just really frustrated,” Blanchette said.

However, Blanchette said he has seen an improvement in the system since returning from Thanksgiving break. 

Freshman political communication major Margaret Poydock said she feels similarly. 

“I support @OccupyECWireles,” Poydock said. “I’m frustrated with the wireless too, and half the time my Ethernet doesn’t work.” 

Grossman said that because the wireless and wired connections were on the same server, they could both fail from the same source, thus preventing Ethernet Cables from working. 

@OccupyECWireles has expressed appreciation for the IT help desk via Twitter. The IT department said they appreciate the forum for communication that @OccupyECWireles has provided for the students. Grossman said he encourages students to email him about any technological problems or email the IT help desk.

“I like that there are multiple avenues for discussion,” Grossman said of the Twitter feed. “But I want to make sure those avenues get to me. If there’s a problem, we [the IT desk] need to find out so we can fix it.”