The Internet is broken

 Connecting to UC_Guest during Acrofest and in the future will lead to slower connectivity.

Connecting to UC_Guest during Acrofest and in the future will lead to slower connectivity.

This coming weekend, Acrofest gymnasts will be pouring onto our campus in droves, estimating a total of 600 extra persons on campus.

Currently, the UC_Guest connection is limited to connecting 500 IP addresses at a time. Shane Flowers, one of our network administrators in the Information Systems (IS) department, says that raising this number before the weekend, seeing as how we will definitely have more than 500 guest IP addresses on campus, is “non-negotiable…it has to be done.”

In order to make sure space on the guest wifi is as well-used as possible, Flowers, along with administration, have asked that we stay off the guest connection, both next week and in the future.

With anywhere between 50 to 100 students on the guest connection at any given time, the desire for a stronger connection and the limited room on the guest wifi have created a conflict of interests. The issue of wifi speed on Union’s campus has already been discussed and is surely to continue being discussed.

In hopes to clear up what exactly is going on with the wifi, I further interviewed Flowers to figure out why so many students are having trouble connecting to the campus’ wifi.

Understanding UC_Guest

For many an unsuspecting student there doesn’t seem to be any difference between using guest and student connections. According to Flowers, there are a few important differences students should be aware of.

By switching to UC_Guest, students are actually acting in contradiction to getting better wifi.

“[UC_Guest] is treated as an external network. When a student goes to a Union College website like Student Portal, Moodle, or the main website, all the traffic stays internal. This is not the case with the guest network,” he shared.

Flowers went on to explain how external use of these sites backs up Union’s internal servers and makes everyone’s wifi slower, including those on UC_Guest, for Union College sites. According to Flowers, UC_Guest actually has a smaller amount of bandwidth than UC_Student does. Therefore the issue for connectivity seems to be a lack of knowledge on how these connections operate, not necessarily their speeds.

When there are problems with connections, Flowers hopes students would at least report those problems via e-mail to IS. This way, IS can fix the issue on a large scale by improving connections campuswide versus not knowing why so many students are switching to UC_Guest.

If there is an issue with the routers or hardware, Flowers reported that HP, our modem providers, might be able to solve our issues with an upgrade. However, with so many unreported issues, it’s difficult for IS to narrow down where the issue is originating and take action from there.

Current solutions

A few weeks ago, an email was sent out to students regarding the upgraded speed of the wifi on campus. This email caused frustration due to the fact that connection experienced was neither stronger nor faster. Though many variables could lead to these same results, Flowers explained that often it is a sticky client (refer to definition) that slows down the wifi for everyone connected to the same AP.

Flowers and his staff are working to effectively calibrate all 192 APs on campus to avoid sticky clients from dragging down APs so easily. His hope is to have all APs re-configured by the time students return from Thanksgiving break.

Flowers expects this fix to completely clear up all connectivity issues, and is hoping to see fewer potential sticky clients as a byproduct. To ensure that you are connected to your nearest AP and prevent becoming a sticky client, disconnect then reconnect after wandering around campus.

During Acrofest Flowers anticipates all connections will be affected by the sheer volume of traffic on the network. However, he said this effect can be mitigated by “students not using the guest wifi that weekend.”

For future use, he advises students to simply stay on the student network.

“We can tell which IP address is using bandwidth for each network, and we know, for example, that Prescott 502 doesn’t have a guest in it right now,” he commented. Due to the connection’s already low bandwidth, students attempting to use guest have been warned that it will be neither faster nor better.

UPDATE:

Last week there was an email sent out regarding guest wifi, Acrofest, and good practices for wifi consciousness. According to this e-mail, students who are using the guest network after November 10 will be blocked from all networks. In order to rectify this, the student must actively visit IS to regain access to wifi on campus.

Please view and review this email to learn what habits you can pick up to make your wireless experience here at Union as quick and easy as possible.


Vocab:

Access point (AP): In layman’s terms, essentially a box that strengthens wireless connections for a certain radius around it.

Connection range: The radius within any given access point will remain connected to a device.

Interference: A disturbance in a connection when two or more access points have intersecting connection ranges that confuses the device and can slow or prevent the device from connecting.

Sticky client: A user who connects to the Internet at one access point who travels away, while on the same network, while still connected from that access point even though there may be an access point closer to their new location. This slowing is due to the fact that the connection on any given access point is only as good as its slowest client.


Setheesh is a sophomore mathematics and religious education major.