On Tuesday, Sept. 25, Information Technology Services (ITS) suspended the WesMesh wireless network on Fountain Avenue after an unsuccessful trial of the new wireless network. Students in these houses will now use the AT&T provided U-verse Internet service (also known as the Woodframe network), which had previously provided service to all woodframe houses.
According to ITS Director of User and Technical Services Karen Warren, providing Internet to students in woodframe houses has always been a challenge, as these houses are not physically connected to the University’s network.
Before its current contract with AT&T, the University had a contract with Comcast, which Warren said was not renewed as a result of service dissatisfaction. AT&T promised the University better overall wireless Internet access with their company. However, according to Warren, this has not been the case.
“There has been tremendous student dissatisfaction with U-verse, and the staff support required for this ‘outsourced’ service has been unacceptable,” Warren wrote in an email to The Argus.
The University is now in the last year of a five-year contract with AT&T, and ITS is investigating other options for students in woodframe houses. According to Warren, Meraki, which was the Internet provider behind WesMesh, was the first vendor found to provide solid bandwidth to houses without excessive use of hardware and cabling. Unlike U-verse Internet provided by AT&T, Meraki does not provide Ethernet, but it does offer a higher bandwidth per person.
“When working, the [Internet’s] connection speed nearly matched that of the main campus-provided wireless solution,” Warren wrote. “This is impossible on AT&T U-verse.”
However, the WesMesh network has currently proven unsustainable. Out of the six Fountain Avenue residents interviewed by The Argus, all six reported having trouble with the network. Most reported repeated disruptions in their Internet.
“I had problems with [the Internet] multiple times a day,” Paulie Lowther ’13 said. “Usually at Wesleyan there’s that time of day when the Internet is really slow—around 10 o’clock, when everyone’s settling in to work. With WesMesh I found that about every two hours I would have problems with Internet.”
Kaylin Berger ’13 agreed that she found the Internet to be unreliable.
“[The Internet] would go in and out very frequently, and stuff just wouldn’t load,” Berger said.
According to Warren, the exact cause of the problem is unknown. ITS will continue to work with Meraki to see if the project can be salvaged.
“The students were excellent working with ITS and [they] provided timely and helpful reports,” Warren wrote. “ When asked, they reported the same things, ‘ WesMesh is great when it works, but it will drop the connection and then you can’t reconnect sometimes for more than an hour at a time.’”
Some students reported that Internet problems interfered with classwork.
“It definitely impeded homework,” Alahna Watson ’13 said. “I have a class where I have to watch movies, and when I can’t get on Netflix I can’t do my homework. [Internet is] really the number one need for a college student.”
Warren said that ITS views such problems as unacceptable.
“We cannot have students consistently unable to connect to services [that are] core to their academics,” Warren wrote. “When more than half the houses were reporting issues, we had no choice but to suspend the project.”
AT&T U-verse provides less than half the bandwidth per house compared to Meraki, even when a student uses Ethernet. Students in a single house often compete for bandwidth.
Warren said that ITS is actively working toward a new solution.
“This is something that ITS and [the] administration wants very much to address,” Warren wrote. “No one is happy with the current solution. We will continue to work on it, whether we can get Meraki to work or find another alternative.”
Of the students asked, all who were able to sign on to the AT&T- provided Woodframe network appeared content with the present situation.
“It hasn’t cut out yet,” Watson said. “I think it’s going to be much better.”