Wireless problems frustrate Elis

A growing number of Elis have had persistent problems connecting to Yale wireless this year, according to interviews and a recent poll conducted by the News.

Since the beginning of the school year, students said Yale wireless connectivity has become increasingly unpredictable, sparking widespread discontent among hundreds of Yalies interviewed and polled. Overall, 57 percent of undergraduates said they were not satisfied with Yale wireless, according to the poll sent out Monday night. Of 354 respondents, 71 percent reported problems accessing Yale wireless (without a LAN, or wired, connection) once a week or more.

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But despite student claims that there is a problem, Yale Information Technology Services has not detected “any broad performance problems with the wireless network,” David Galassi, director of ITS network services, said in an interview with the News on Wednesday. ITS installed new wireless access points around campus last summer, part of an ongoing project to implement campuswide wireless, he said. The new routers, he added, do not seem to be connected to the student-reported issues.

Galassi added that ITS will nonetheless investigate students’ reports in an attempt to address the issue.

“It is clear that a number of students are experiencing problems with the wireless network,” Galassi said. “ITS continues to investigate these reports … Additionally, we are performing an extensive analysis of all components of the wireless network.”

Students said in interviews and comments on a recent poll conducted by the News that, in addition to the inconsistent ability to connect to wireless, they are primarily frustrated by the slow connectivity speed once online. Many respondents also took issue with the lack of wireless connectivity on Old Campus. (Old Campus is part of the 20 percent of campus that does not currently have wireless coverage, but will be outfitted with wireless access points this summer, Galassi said.)

Inconsistent wireless connectivity is a recent phenomenon: Seventy percent of students first began having problems with wireless in the past year, according to the poll.

“This year [wireless] is a constant on and off, and when it’s on, it’s abysmally slow,” Danny Fierro ’10 said. “I’d say maybe at least three-quarters of the time, I’m in the process of getting kicked out and have to reconnect.”

Despite their grumblings, few students have actually taken steps to get the problem fixed: Galassi said ITS has received fewer than 25 formal student complaints about wireless for the entire academic year.

Still, students interviewed who did reach out to ITS said they did not receive a helpful or concrete answer.

When Tomas Rua ’10 went to talk to the student techs in Bass Library, he said was told there was nothing they could do. He said the student techs told him they had brought the issue to ITS’ attention, but to no avail.

“Essentially, they were telling me, ‘Sorry, no luck, you’re going to have to live with it,’ ” Rua said.

Many students said they initially blamed their computers for the malfunctioning wireless. Fierro said when he first began experiencing connectivity problems, he took his computer to Apple, only to be told his wireless worked fine. He subsequently took his computer to student techs on two different occasions last fall, but, like Rua, was told nothing could be done, he said.

But Rua and Fierro are in the minority. Most students, unsure of who to talk to about the problem, simply put up with the wireless problem as best they can.

“I guess in a way, I don’t really know who I would talk to [to fix the problem],” Alyssa Nguyen-Phuc ’10 said. “What am I going to say? ‘Dear Yale, your Internet has kind of stopped working’?”

Galassi said ITS submitted a letter Tuesday to the News, outlining how students can report wireless connectivity problems. In addition to their end-of-the-year student technology survey, which will now include specific questions about wireless, ITS has created a new online form that allows students to directly report wireless problems they experience. The form can be found at www.yale.edu/its/stc/wireless. Such feedback, Galassi said, will allow ITS to gather data about the extent of the problem and address student concerns more effectively.

Chuck Powell, the senior director of Academic Media and Technology, said ITS has been working to make wireless available on campus for several years, but has recently stepped up its efforts.

Currently, Galassi said, 80 percent of the campus has wireless coverage — up from 40 percent at the end of the spring 2008 semester.

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