In an era when most of our work is completed online, a strong wireless Internet connection is tantamount to efficiency. An unreliable wireless connection could be the root cause of major problems for busy students, resulting in late assignment submissions or an inability to access course materials.
The University of Miami Information Technology department (UMIT) has revamped the wireless infrastructure over the past two years by switching from WirelessCanes to the encrypted network, SecureCanes, and installing thousands of new wireless access points throughout the residential colleges to improve connection quality.
For the most part, SecureCanes is not particularly problematic in classrooms and residential areas. However, many students still express frustration with the reliability of the connection, reporting occasional spotty connection in the dining halls and the Storer Auditorium at the School of Business, as well as irregular, temporary connection problems across campus. Often, users turn to CanesGuest – the unsecure wireless network meant for temporary guest use – as an alternative.
The fact that students resort to other networks undermines the purpose of SecureCanes. If the very network that is meant to provide a more secure, reliable connection is outperformed by CanesGuest, SecureCanes clearly has room for improvement.
In addition, even if occasional spottiness in the network is unavoidable, more transparency and understanding about network issues should be afforded to the students. The Student Technology Help Desk is meant to be a resource for assisting students with connection issues – if the problem arises from the network itself, the help desk should say so. Students have attested that even when no one around them could connect to SecureCanes, the Help Desk attributed the problem to the individual’s computer, rather than providing a clear answer about the network’s issues.
For comparison, the Office of Information Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology has a live service status spreadsheet that shows exactly which elements of the network infrastructure are experiencing problems.
However, students perplexed by their connectivity issues can also take the initiative to look out for alerts from UMIT on their webpage, where students can see scheduled maintenances or reported issues.
Reliability of internet connection is essential to the quality of campus life and academic work. While the campus network is much better than it was in 2013, this is not the finish line. Further improvements can be made, not only in the quality of the network, but also through transparent communication of network problems with users.
Attempts were made to reach out to UMIT with no response.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.