The Thursday after Valentine’s Day irritated students and faculty members who, if using Google, were greeted by an 8-bit tyrannosaurus rex indicating a lack of internet connection instead of the regular UDair login page. Many were left unable to complete their work due to an interruption in the campus’ Wi-Fi.
According to Rick Hayter, UD’s Director of Information Technology (IT), there are 180 access points throughout campus that connect devices to the Internet. Every access point functions under two central controllers that are connected to one of about 100 Ethernet switches. UD’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) connects the switches to the Internet, that in turn eventually deliver connection to its users.
“We’ve had a couple of widespread network outages in the last couple of months,” Hayter said. “The one [on Feb. 15] was due to a networking problem in Farrell Hall that caused a switch there to flood the network with traffic that effectively stopped anyone from getting onto the network and out to the Internet. Once we were able to locate the offending switch and ports, we disabled them, stopping the network congestion and allowing people to again access the network.”
Hayter also mentions that previous outages were not caused by issues within UD’s network, and instead attributes them to a problem with the ISP.
Students at UD typically use Wi-Fi on their phones and laptops to stream music and movies, communicate through email, as well as to complete and submit homework assignments on Brightspace. Similarly, faculty members use Wi-Fi to communicate online through email and over the phone.
Some departments, such as the offices of financial aid, advancement and human resources sent their employees home before the end of the work day because of the issues with connection.
“The work we do hinges on being able to use our online student database, so without access to that or phone lines (since our phones are connected to the internet), not much can be done in the office,” Elizabeth Griffin Smith, Director of Admission, said in an email. “Fortunately, with a web-based database, we can do work from alternative sites as long as there is an internet connection.”
Smith said that the employees that were dismissed for the day completed their work at another location with working Wi-Fi, such as Starbucks or their own home.
Cassandra Fritsche, a freshman psychology major, expressed her frustration with the outages.
“It’s kind of annoying that it keeps happening rather than one or two isolated incidents,” Fritsche said. “[The Wi-Fi] is already subpar, even when it’s working, and then the fact that it completely goes down during the day when people are actually working is concerning. … Wi-Fi is pretty important when professors expect us to submit things and research online.”
Nevertheless, Hayter assures that the interruptions do not last long. He suggests that students who are unable to connect to Wi-Fi should try at another location or use an Ethernet cable to connect their device to a network jack in residence halls. Students are also advised to use their cellular service to connect to the internet either directly or through a personal hotspot.