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Temperamental WiFi bugs students, interferes with work

by Xakota Espinoza / Beacon Staff • February 2, 2011

Remember the sluggish dial-up service on your 1996 Dell desktop computer? For a number of students, the unreliable and lengthy process of loading a web page on the college’s wireless Internet server is equally frustrating.

Freshman Mike Tingley said he has issues almost every time he tries to get on the Internet, and it has been noticeably worse since returning from break.

“Whenever I try to log on it will load a 16th of the page and then stay frozen like that forever,” said the broadcast journalism major. “I’ll just sit there clicking my [mouse] pad and refreshing the page to the point where I want to throw my computer out the window.”

Tingley said the shoddy service has begun to affect his ability to complete his schoolwork.

“The Internet will go out right when I’m trying to submit a response on WebCT, which is due at a certain time,” he said. “My parent’s aren’t paying money for my Internet not to work.”

Richard Grossman, director of information technology, said the college’s six-year-old WiFi network slows under the stress of increased users and interference from students’ independent wireless devices.

“We are absolutely aware of the problem, and it is absolutely at the forefront of our minds,” Grossman said. “There has been a significantly increased demand for wireless Internet the past few weeks; we’re trying to make the necessary changes to solve that issue.”

The finicky Internet service is waring on students who said they frequently find themselves waiting 20 minutes for a page to load, or at times find themselves unable to get online at all.

Freshman Mahesh Harwani said ECmobile lags at random and often inopportune times.

“[The Internet] gives out right when you really need it without warning,” said the marketing communication major. “For a fine institution like Emerson College, it is less than satisfactory.”

Grossman said the college plans to renovate parts of the network’s infrastructure, but declined to say the improvements would begin.

“We’re working with a six-year-old wireless system, which we’re trying to update,” Grossman said. “We plan to upgrade the firmware and software in some devices we have, while some equipment will be replaced.”

Grossman said his department recently began heat-mapping with the system, a process that pinpoints areas with the weakest WiFi. But he said it’s time to hire outside professionals.

“We’re trying multiple different solutions to address the problem,” he said. “We’re replacing some of the older gear, and doing internal heat mapping ourselves, as well as having the vendor do an internal heat mapping as well, which will help a lot.”

Until the problems are solved, many students say they will resort to plugging in their Ethernet cables in order to gain satisfactory Internet access.

“[The wireless] kicks me off all the time and is always so slow,” said freshman film production major Cassie Susemihl. “I use my Ethernet cable all the time.”