The Internet has taken over our lives. Whether it’s Google, YouTube or Facebook, most of our generation cannot survive a day without constant access to the Internet. It makes UCLA’s somewhat lackluster wireless Internet services all the more noticeable, and the need for reliable dorm WiFi and campus-wide WiFi all the more pressing.
Coverage is limited or entirely absent in classrooms and shoddy at best on the Hill. Dropped wireless signals and snail-like speeds are no uncommon occurrence in the dorms. Such below-par WiFi access is simply inexcusable.
Luckily, Communications Technology Services plans to make campus-wide WiFi a reality. It will officially propose the plan to UCLA’s Information Technology Planning Board by the end of this quarter. The proposal ought to be expanded to include coverage of the Hill, which it currently doesn’t. For now, wireless access remains much more reliable on campus than in the dorms.
If students want the dorms to have reliable and fast WiFi, they will have to let the Student Technology Center know via its help desk.
“We pride ourselves on being responsive, but we have to know about the issue,” said John Min, the director of information technology for Housing and Hospitality Services.
He admits that there are challenges in bandwidth usage, especially with the wave of video streaming embodied by Hulu and Netflix, but maintained that student feedback has been more positive than negative.
That Min is unaware of any widespread problems with dorm WiFi is a problem in and of itself, but Min maintains that Housing has kept its ear to the ground, citing monthly meetings with students.
Dartmouth and even USC have had campus-wide wireless Internet access since 2003. UCLA ought to follow these examples and be at the forefront of wireless technology. That the institution where the Internet was created would have such a lagging wireless infrastructure is more tragic than ironic.
Housing Services provides computer labs and almost full access to wired Internet, but it needs to do a better job in general at maintaining access. This can be done by combining Internet access in the dorms with campus-wide WiFi. Both of my roommates had laptops last year, and both were forced to work where they could plug in an ethernet cord. And triple rooms come equipped with only two ethernet ports, forcing residents to fight over who will have access to high speed Internet.
The problems don’t end there. Wireless routers are also costly and often become useless in the storm of wireless Internet being used by iPhones, laptops and game consoles.
All of this makes homework more difficult to do. Increasingly, professors are putting homework and lectures online via blackboard or the course website. Losing your entire e-journal on a class’s discussion board because of a lost WiFi signal is the tip of the iceberg here. Imagine losing your signal during an online quiz you can only take once.
Having access to WiFi anywhere on campus and in the dorms under the umbrella of CTS may cut costs in some places and add costs elsewhere, but the net benefits should far outweigh any necessary budget increases.
There has been significant capital investment in wireless infrastructure already, Min said. But it may not be enough. A single student may be connected to the wireless network on up to 3 devices, and UCLA needs to be prepared to handle such demand.