It isn’t often that one writes an op-ed article, only to receive an email requesting a meeting to discuss it. Yet such was the case when, in response to “Poor Wi-Fi leaves students helpless,” the WCU Information Services department reached out to us, requesting to provide their side of the story.
They informed us that we would be meeting with four men: JT Singh, the Executive Director of Information Services (IS), Joseph Sincavage, the Director of Networking and Telecom, Richard Chan, Asst. Director of Networking and Telecom, and Richard Jackson, ResNet manager. They wished to address our concerns, and attempt to rectify them.
In the meeting, which took place on Oct. 23, Singh reviewed the efforts and changes that his department has undertaken recently. “Quality and customer service are our top priority,” he repeatedly mentioned, as he discussed their efforts to save money, reduce the carbon footprint, and create a more stable network by increasing the available bandwidth from 1GB to 10GBs.
Singh also claimed that “we never heard of any issues about the Wi-Fi until this article came out.” Richard Chan concurred, stating that it is impossible for their department to do anything to help anyone unless students reach out and inform them of the problem.
In the previous article, Tom mentioned severe issues he had with the Wi-Fi while living in Brandywine Hall. In the meeting, Theresa added that when she lived in Brandywine, her room was a dead zone, and she fought with ResNet for a while before they turned her port on. The team had some interesting things to say about this, and they stated that there is actually nothing they can do about the Wi-Fi situation in affiliated dorms. They said that they can’t upgrade the outdated systems in those buildings until University Student Housing gives them more funding, and while talks are in progress, a solution is far off. Chan said that “you will continue to have problems [with the Wi-Fi] until USH decides to redesign.”
Chan had mentioned that, in a situation of bad Wi-Fi in a dorm room, they immediately turn on the Ethernet ports for that room. We both felt that the time it took for ResNet to turn on the ports in both of our situations was unacceptable. When we pressed Singh on this point, he admitted that it should not have taken more than two weeks. He and Jackson promised that an internal investigation would be conducted.
While Singh and his team were focused on our issues in Brandywine, we had other concerns. As any student on this campus will tell you – no matter where they live – finding yourself disconnected from RamNet is often a daily occurrence.
Responding to these concerns, Sincavage and Chan explained that various reasons that someone may be dropped from the network. They informed us that personal routers broadcast signals that can interfere with the school routers and cause the signal to be dropped. This is the reason that they have repeatedly requested that people not bring their personal routers to school. Not only will they not work, they will actually interfere with the existing signals as well. The same goes for wireless printers. Due to the signal they broadcast, they too will interfere.
Chan also implored students to contact ResNet when they are having a problem. He said “we don’t know anything is wrong until you tell us what works or not. We expect students who have a problem to contact ResNet, the RAs, or the Resident Directors.” This is a fair point, but there are problems with this request. If a student is in class, or in the middle of some homework, they will be focused on their work, not contacting ResNet. Also, due to the frequency of issues, it becomes difficult to find time to report them. However, reach out when you can; it can only help.
In reference to complaints that Tom made about issues with gaming and other media devices, Chan had this to say: “Students expect 24 hour connectivity. It cannot be…Wi-Fi cannot be reliable. The devices are the problem. The Operating Systems are the problem. It’s often not us.” He also said that “I am not the ISP for your entertainment. I do your education; that’s my main priority” and that he is responsible for bringing “the classroom to the dorm.”
Obviously, our education is more important than our entertainment. However, we do pay to live here, and we expect our time here to be comfortable. If Singh and his team are so devoted to customer service, it only makes sense that they work to accommodate what we want. Sincavage mentioned that the network typically only has to handle four to five GB of traffic at a time. That’s only half of the total bandwidth our network can handle, so we fail to see the problem.
Ironically, Chan himself says he is a supporter of landlines and wired connections, as he feels that Wi-Fi will never be as strong as a wired connection. An issue, however, seems to be incidences of false reports. Chan recounted an incident where a student attempted to get his port turned on by appealing to President Weisenstein. He claimed that his education was in jeopardy due to his faulty connection. When Chan and his team investigated, they found that the student was lying, and he was simply trying to get the port turned on so he could play video games. This is unacceptable behavior, and we should all strive to be better than this.
Ironically, the weekend following our meeting, almost the entire campus lost Wi-Fi for approximately ten hours. Students reported not being able to log on to RamNet around 3 a.m. on homecoming until past 12 p.m.
Singh recently sent us a follow-up email, explaining his plans moving forward. He plans to investigate rooms C and D in the Village apartments, which seem to have the most issues with connectivity of all the rooms in those apartments. He will also look into the way they handle port access requests, to try and streamline the process, and get students the internet they need. He asks people to be patient, and to stay conscious of the various challenges and issues that he and his team face. We, of course, understand, and we hope you all will be patient as well. However, there are still issues that need to be addressed, questions that we felt were not answered in a satisfactory manner, and controversial comments that need to be further investigated.
We will keep you all informed as we learn more, so please do what you can on your end of things to make everything easier for all of us. Also, please comment with any issues you’ve experienced with ResNet. We’re curious to hear your thoughts.
Thomas Abramouski is a fifth year student majoring in English writing and communication studies. He can be reached at TA778104@wcupa.edu or on Twitter @TitaniumLegman.
Theresa Kelly is a fourth-year student majoring in English literature secondary education. She can be reached at TK780615@wcupa.edu.