Opinion: Google Fiber and campus speeds

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When I’m out on a project there’s always that one person who asks if the campus is getting Google Fiber. Be it faculty or student, they are often under the impression that Google Fiber will fix the issue of Internet speed. I understand this idea as I too was stoked when “Fiber” was offered to Provo. However my supervisor had a word to say to us about this.

To begin, we as technicians are told to tell people “we don’t know” when they ask if Google Fiber will be installed at BYU. This is for two reasons, the more important being that we really don’t know. We’re never informed of bigger projects that don’t involve us, which includes new connections to Internet providers. Those projects are contracted out since the labor required is full-time and most of our department consists of students.

Google Fiber won’t fix the student complaint of Internet speed on campus. We already have several connections to service providers that are as fast as or faster than Google Fiber. Yes, as fast or faster. They are set up to even the load of connected devices requesting internet access and take on more should a service go down for some reason. A connection to Google Fiber will only make the speeds a fraction faster.

Why the slow speeds? Several reasons. First, there are too many devices on campus. Office computers, laptops, smart devices, servers, etc. are growing rapidly across campus. It’s not like eight years ago when wireless wasn’t in demand and smart devices weren’t common. Students access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix and Hulu which drains the bandwidth offered. The wired and wireless connections were not meant for this. The primary purpose was to allow students to gain access to necessary services such as research and online course documents and for departments to complete business. Second, wireless access. While OIT has implemented high-density devices to handle auditoriums and classrooms in buildings where it was requested by the responsible college, people still bring too many devices. If everyone used only a single device it would allow better Wi-Fi connections in that room. When everyone there has a smart device and laptop requesting Wi-Fi access it quickly consumes the limited number of devices it can support simultaneously. You may not notice it but your smart device is probably checking for notifications from your apps, downloading updates and idling on a connection. Then your laptop is being used to access sites and it will check for software updates in the background. If you’re not using one of these things, turn off the Wi-Fi Request that your class do the same.

For those in student housing, it’s almost the same for you. Many of you complain about the internet not being fast enough when it’s more than capable to help you. Bad Wi-Fi speeds at night? It’s because your roommate is catching up on The Office or Doctor Who as well as the next guy two apartments down. Can’t connect? Either you’re at the end of the wing or too many people are trying to connect to the same device. Wi-Fi signals degrade when going through walls and thins out when too many people try to hop on. If you can, organize groups to watch together in the apartments. While you can’t host movie parties in the main activity room, you can at least reduce the number of devices requesting the same services. It really isn’t that hard if you come together to solve the matter at hand. Simply complaining to one another and calling the service desk now and again accomplishes nothing.

It’s not rocket science and it’s not “IT magic.” These are issues with simple solutions that nobody is collaborating to resolve. Get together and discuss ideas and get things going! You can do it, so crack down on it.

Kent Coble
OIT Student Employee
Fort Worth, Texas

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