The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

DePaul’s Wi-Fi disconnect: Students frustrated with internet speeds, connections

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.18.58 PMIn the middle of an online exam, freshman Vereshia Noble was cut off. Her computer had disconnected from DePaul’s Wi-Fi, which she relies up on as a campus resident.

But this wasn’t the first time.

“At a school where a large percentage of coursework is done online, I expected a much more stable, secure and fast connection to the internet,” Noble said. “It is a service that we, as a community, are paying for and when that service fails to work, it hinders our ability to academically perform at our very best.”

A mass connection outage earlier this month highlights two of the most common technical grievances DePaul students have: Internet connection and cell phone coverage on campus.

From the evening of Feb. 6 to the evening of Feb. 9, the majority of the DePaul community was unable to connect to the “depaulsecure” network. Information Services (IS) Director of Infrastructure Josh Luttig called it “the most widespread wireless outage that I’m aware of in recent history.”

The reason for this outage was an expired security certificate. The issue was revised and an email was sent out to the community,  stating that users may need to re-connect and accept the new SSL certificate. Luttig encourages students to use this network instead of “depaulwireless” whenever possible. While this mass outage was recognized and taken care of as quickly as possible, many students experience on-going struggles with Wi-Fi connection around campus.

Freshman Frank Kreutzer often has difficulties with Internet connection at Corcoran Hall where he lives.

“When it comes to issues with the Wi-Fi, it occurs at random times,” Kreutzer said. “I would have my books online, but due to the either slow or nonexistent connection at the time, there were times where I couldn’t do the reading.”

“Probably the most annoying would be the constant timing out of connection,” Noble said. “This is usually resolved within five to 10 minutes if I constantly disconnect and reconnect to the server. And it generally isn’t a big deal until I’m in the middle of an online exam or, gasp, making a tuition payment.”

The complex wireless Internet connection system of a large-scale campus like DePaul differs from the way many individuals would access WiFi at home. In a household setting there is generally one modem that all devices connect to. DePaul’s wireless access points are powered by a company called Aruba Networks and take the form of small white boxes mounted on the ceiling.

The Student Center is notorious amongst many for it’s spotty cellphone and Wi-Fi service. (DePaulia File)
The Student Center is notorious amongst many for it’s spotty cellphone and Wi-Fi service. (DePaulia File)

“There are a number of challenges to operating DePaul’s wireless network that you wouldn’t run into at your home,” Luttig said. “DePaul’s wireless network is made up of almost 1,500 access points and has upwards of 13,000 unique devices connected at any given time.”

Personal devices connect to DePaul’s Wi-Fi from these different access points set up across campus.

“In an attempt to provide a seamless, reliable experience when moving from place to place, we utilize technologies which allow people to roam across multiple access points and always be connected to the ‘best’ one,” he said.  “When there are lots of devices in a relatively small physical space, we use technologies to intelligently spread the load evenly across multiple access points.”

Luttig said that individual issues with connection can often be remedied by updating the software on your personal device.

“We are generally able to get to the bottom of persistent issues when we partner with our customers to troubleshoot,” he said.  “A successful experience is dependent on both the network and the client device working well together.”

To avoid slow Internet connections, Kreutzer opts to use an Ethernet cable with his PC computer. During the mass outage Kreutzer conducted a speed test, which he said gave “depaulsecure” a rating of one star out of five with a downloading rate of 4.8 megabytes per second. He then did another speed test Feb. 17 that he said showed a download rate of 28.6 megabytes per second. Despite the improvement, Kreutzer maintains that “there is still better speeds that could be achieved.”

Cell phone coverage is another matter. Many students are unable to receive calls or texts in the student center or certain areas in the SAC, among other locations. More than merely an inconvenience, this becomes problematic when lack of coverage means students may not receive a DPU Alert regarding their safety.

DePaul has much less, if any, control over cell phone connection. 

“Cell phone coverage quality in a particular location is dependent on a number of factors,” Luttig said. “A small selection of these factors includes the location and design of nearby cell towers, handset design and orientation, network congestion, and even building materials used for indoor spaces.”

IS says the school doesn’t have special agreements with any cell phone service providers to deliver enhanced coverage on campus. This debunks rumors around campus that DePaul has some type of “secret” deal with AT&T, claims based on student observations that this provider usually gets the best coverage. However, AT&T is the only wireless company that offers a “Demon Discount” to faculty, staff and students.

Maps of DePaul’s wireless coverage are available online at the IS website. IS encourages students to let them know if they are unhappy with coverage so they can help solve the issue. A survey will be given to students during the spring quarter in an effort to improve services.

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