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OIT improves Wi-Fi, receives positive reception from undergraduates

By Will Ledig     1/16/18 11:43pm

Over the fall 2017 semester, the Office of Information Technology made improvements to on-campus Wi-Fi, and is seeking student feedback as it prepares to make even more improvements, according to Mike Dewey, director of campus services for the OIT.

“We see fewer tickets coming in about users being disconnected or unable to connect,” Dewey said. “We do, however, still see and hear feedback about the performance not being what users expect or want.”

For eight weeks last semester, the OIT installed a system that studied and interpreted the performance of the Wi-Fi in order to to help diagnose issues with the Wi-Fi, according to Dewey.

“This interface could then be used to help us isolate and focus on troubleshooting some particular issues that we were seeing (and in some cases not seeing),” Dewey said. “It also provides very good information about what applications and traffic patterns are used on the wireless network.”

Using this interface, the OIT identified potential issues in the campus’s wireless systems, allowing them to make improvements in whichever ways they saw fit, Dewey said. Improvements included increasing the compatibility of iOS devices, decreasing disconnection issues and fixing bugs in the software that controls the wireless systems, according to Dewey.

Overall, each of these changes should improve students’ day-to-day experiences with the Wi-Fi, according to Spencer Chang, the OIT ambassador for Jones College.

“From my understanding, they’re trying to make it so that the routers we have around campus are more efficient at directing traffic, so that students don’t experience as many wait times or slow downs in peak hours,” Chang, a junior, said.

In addition, the OIT has begun work on the RiceNet Wireless Refresh project, which aims to replace older Wi-Fi hardware with newer devices, and is currently searching for vendors according to Dewey.

The OIT is also trying to improve the information it provides students with regard to Wi-Fi setup and use, according to Dewey.

“As a part of the refresh, we plan to develop and communicate guidelines and recommendations to help users configure their wireless devices in the most effective manner possible,” Dewey said.

For instance, the OIT is working on revising and better communicating its guidelines on some of the most used applications on the Wi-Fi: Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, Philo and YouTube.

“The primary purpose of the university Wi-Fi network is research and education,” Dewey said. “Video streaming is not supported over our wireless network. The wired network should be used to stream videos, and the OIT will be happy to help students get connected.”

It seems that the improvements made so far have improved student perception of the Wi-Fi network, according to Wiess College junior and OIT Ambassador, Shamanth Kuramkote. Several OIT ambassadors, including Kuramkote, Chang, McMurtry College senior Farhan Kawsar and Lovett College senior Vi Nguyen said they too have seen fewer complaints from fellow students about Wi-Fi quality.

“People remark on how the Wi-Fi has gotten much faster since we returned for this semester,” Kuramkote said. “We ran a speed test and we got 120 Mbps for download and around 90 Mbps for upload speeds.”

In the meantime, the OIT is actively seeking out student feedback so that it may better understand what issues need to be addressed, according to Dewey.

“We plan to send out a survey in January to the student body to get additional feedback on how the wireless network is performing,” Dewey said. “We encourage all students to participate in the survey so that we may get a clearer view of where potential issues exist.”

According to the OIT ambassadors, the OIT has reached out to ask for them to gather feedback from students regarding their experiences with the Wi-Fi.

“The biggest message we're getting is that student feedback is really important,” Robbie Foley, a sophomore, and the OIT ambassador for Brown College, said. “If students have Wi-Fi issues, they should communicate with the IT Help Desk. This is the only way that the OIT will hear about Wi-Fi problems and be able to fix them.”

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