Students report Wi-Fi struggles on campus
In the first weeks of classes, students have reported Wi-Fi problems amid a six-year project to renovate the entire University’s networks and other possible causes. Still, no IT tickets have been filed regarding Wi-Fi problems this semester.
Vaibhav Sharma, Photo Editor
In Bass, Sterling Memorial Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the residential college libraries, Yale students quietly do their work on tablets, computers and, occasionally, paper. But in recent weeks, some students have reported difficulties with Wi-Fi access and stability on campus.
Director of Foundational Technology Services Louis Tiseo said that he has not seen any Wi-Fi issues this semester as reported in IT tickets and he does not believe there are more Wi-Fi issues than in a typical year. Still, Tiseo mentioned potential lingering effects from hurricane-caused outages, an especially large uptick in the number of devices on campus and a $50 million campus-wide network replacement project that could possibly explain students’ struggles with campus Wi-Fi this fall.
“[I’ve been] trying to watch a video for my math class on Canvas in the library, and the Wi-Fi refuses to cooperate,” said Clementine Rice ’25. “And the library is kind of an essential study spot, so one would expect the Wi-Fi would work well there.”
Internet access at Yale is broken into five networks: the Campus Network, Science Network, Public Safety Network, Facilities Network and Med Campus Network. Within the Campus Network, there are three main Wi-Fi networks: YaleWireless, YaleGuest and YaleSecure. These networks serve the 10,442 staff members, 12,021 undergraduate and graduate students and the nearly 5,000 faculty members at the University. The networks, which include 7,200 Wi-Fi units throughout campus, run throughout much of New Haven, Tiseo said.
YaleSecure is an encrypted network that utilizes students’ NetIDs for access. YaleGuest, on the other hand, is only intended for on-campus guests and is “insecure,” which means it is open and unencrypted, according to the Yale School of Management Information Technology Catalog. YaleWireless is an unencrypted network that is only accessible with a NetID.
According to Tiseo, the networks on campus are being constantly monitored in the control center, and the IT department can also be notified of Wi-Fi issues through the problem tickets. If problems get significantly worse, people from IT are dispatched to restore service.
Tiseo said that there have not been any major Wi-Fi problems found in submitted problem tickets since move-in day. He added that he has “not seen the Wi-Fi being worse than any other year.”
Still, he added there could have been risks of long-term effects caused by the storm on Sept. 1.
“With every building outage, there’s always the potential of having hardware failures,” Tiseo said. “It’s just like your computer if you just press the button and it goes off, you corrupt the database or something like that.”
Each year, there is also an uptick in devices on campus, Tiseo said, adding that due to many students opting to live off campus last year, this increase has been even larger this year.
This year, IT data collection has found that there are over 60,000 devices on campus, according to Tiseo. In the past five years, the Network Team has seen a 12 percent increase in devices due to not only more devices, but an increase in types of Internet of Things, or IoT, devices according to Tim Sheets, director of Network Services. IoT refers to the network of all devices that are connected to the internet in some way, from sensors to smart thermostats.
Currently, the University is undergoing a six-year $50 million project that began in 2019 called Next Generation Network to replace the 20-year old network. Once this project is implemented, it should be able to accommodate more devices, and the Wi-fi networks should be more resilient according to Tiseo.
“We continue to maintain our legacy network and provide basic stable service until we have the NextGen replacement in place,” Tiseo said.
Through the project, the five current networks will be consolidated into a Software Define Network, which is a software-motivated way to centralize networks that functions similarly to cloud computing. The project has already been implemented on the medical school campus starting in January 2020, and administrators are already seeing positive results in terms of increased resilience, speed and efficiency according to Sheets.
“We’re replacing hardware that’s antiquated and beginning at the end of its life cycle,” Sheets said. “So, we expect things to get a lot better as we go along. And we’ve already seen that on [the] med campus.”
Any outages that could occur due to the Next Generation Network project would be scheduled weeks in advance, and they try to plan them for Sundays from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., Tiseo said.
While this project is still under way, students continue to report Wi-Fi issues.
Supriya Weiss ’24 said she has not been negatively impacted by the Wi-Fi while on campus, but has noticed its poorer quality.
“I have noticed that when I’m walking to class, sometimes I’ll lose the Wi-Fi for, you know, a few blocks or something like that,” Weiss said. “I do think that it is Yale’s responsibility to make sure that we have secure Wi-Fi, because … having poor internet access puts you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to being successful in school.”
Bryson Weise ’24 told the News that “Yale should make sure that Wi-Fi is as easy to access as possible for all students.”
The Next Generation Network project that intends to improve the Wi-Fi will be finished in 2025 and is being presented at the upcoming education consortium.