What's Up with NGU's WiFi? - Writing Sample 1

It’s Sunday night. You finally sit down to do your homework. You open your laptop and then the Wi-Fi decides it’s going to take its precious time. You have an entire weekend’s worth of homework to do, and you just do not have time for the internet to be slow. At North Greenville University, the wireless internet sometimes has a mind of its own, and people often ask questions as to why it acts the way it does.
           At NGU, according to the Information Technology (IT) Department, there are about 430 access points to the wireless internet on campus. Wireless internet, or Wi-Fi, is a shared service. When only one device is connected to a certain access point, that device gets all of the signal. When a second device connects, the signal is split between the two. For every other device that connects to the same access point, it must evenly split the signal between every device. This means that for every access point, the more devices connected, the less signal each device gets, which in turn makes it a slower connection for everyone involved. According to Charlie Garcia, IT Network Services Manager, during a typical week, there are approximately 2,600 people connected to “Crusader Connect.”  This high hits at about 2p.m. during the weekdays because that is when staff members and commuter students are on campus in addition to the resident students. During chapel services on campus, the number of devices connected hits its lowest because there are little to no access points in the chapel building. The number is also typically lower during the weekends and at night, according to IT.
            On campus, students often experience problems with their connection. The biggest problem would be devices disconnecting at random times. “Usually it’s because someone turned on something else that messes with the interference. A car with Wi-Fi in it that drives up near a building could cause it, or someone is using a hotspot,” says Garcia while sitting at his computer in the Administration building. He looks at all the data and can see exactly how many devices are connected to each access point and where any interference from outside of “Crusader Connect” could be coming from and then puts a stop to it. When a device randomly becomes disconnected, it is usually connected again within a few seconds because, according to Garcia, “The way the signal works, it kicks the other device off the feed and the signal comes back to whatever device [someone] was using.”
               “I once went to [a house on campus] and they were having issues in one room. They had all the micro-fridges lined up along one wall which was blocking the signal,” says Garcia. Something that students do not tend to take into consideration when they are having issues is microwaves. When someone uses a microwave in their dorm, it puts off radiation that could cause interference. The material of the architecture is one last reason a connection could be messing up. As a whole, people tend to think that concrete blocks signal the most, but it’s actually wood. Since the walls are mostly made of wood, that could potentially be blocking the signal in some places.
            Upload and download speed is another topic about North Greenville’s internet service that makes students curious. The upload speed on campus can be considered fast, especially when compared to a residential network. “Upload speed does not use as much [bandwidth]. Not as many people are uploading here. The network here is a lot bigger [than a residential network],” explains Garcia. Bandwidth can be defined by Google as “the range of frequencies within a given band, used for transmitting signal.” This means that it can accommodate for more devices and still run at a reasonable speed. According to the Director of Network and Desktop Services, Tim Patterson, homes usually have an asymmetrical network, because that is how companies sell them. This means that download speed is sold much bigger and faster than upload speed because most people do not need to upload things in their homes. However, in businesses and at universities, wireless networks are sold as symmetrical networks which means that upload and download speeds are typically the same speed. Since more people are using download to browse the internet, stream music and videos and download files, the speed is going to be slower. Still less people are going to be uploading. Since there is less data going through the “stream” it can move a lot faster and make it easier and faster to upload anything to the internet.
            One way to speed up or improve the quality of internet service on campus is to stream videos through a hard wired connection. The service through a hard wired connection is not shared and the amount of data transferred is only through one device so it does not have to split itself up in order to accommodate multiple devices. It is not recommended for students to have their own routers or use hotspots because it can mess up the signal for other people.
           While the internet sometimes has issues, any large network will sometimes experience glitches because technology is not perfect.