Wi-Fi Problems and RIT's Solution
by Karina Le | published Dec. 1st, 2018
RIT is one of the biggest technology schools in the nation, filled to the brim with talented engineers and innovators. Despite this status, however, it is infamous for its rather spotty Wi-Fi, which can suddenly lag, be unusable or even stop working for a solid half hour.
Students understand that RIT has some massive Wi-Fi problems, and struggles with these problems on a constant basis. What exactly is causing the Wi-Fi connection to be poor, though? Why hasn't Information and Technology Services (ITS) solved it yet? These questions can be explained by first understanding how exactly the system works.
What’s the Problem?
There are a variety of ways that Wi-Fi can disconnect. Satyendra Emani, a second year Computer Engineering Technology major, talked about Wi-Fi access points.
"If you have multiple Wi-Fi access points, there are chances that it will cause an interference with RIT's Wi-Fi," he explained.
Emani outlined two ways to set up these access points that would result in better Wi-Fi speed and allow an easier time connecting. He drew out an example of a dorm hallway ideally having a few wireless access points — three in this hypothetical situation — spread across it. These access points would cover a relatively large area to allow users access to the Wi-Fi throughout the hall.
“What [RIT] does instead is that they arrange the ... access points and decrease the range [from the usual setup]," Emani said.
This means there is a cluster of access points within an area so that Wi-Fi is in practically every corner. However, Emani explained why this particular set up is problematic.
He said, "For devices not configured for this [setup] ... to constantly switch to the nearest access point ... causes some Wi-Fi connection problems.”
Bradley Boice, a fifth year Journalism major, expressed similar ideas.
“In actuality, on every floor there are multiple different access points," he said. "So when you’re moving between buildings or floors ... even though it’s still the same RIT Wi-Fi, [your device] is disconnecting and connecting.”
However, another reason why the Wi-Fi lags is due to RIT's old infrastructure, which Boice explained.
"RIT's Wi-Fi system ... is really outdated," he said. "The way that RIT does their Wi-Fi is super early 2000s era, and can't really handle the bandwidth that a lot of students are really needing right now."
"RIT's Wi-Fi system ... is really outdated."
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time, according to a Webopedia article.
RIT's old infrastructure explains the slow Wi-Fi speed. The purpose of the Enterprise Network Refresh Project is to fix this very problem.
The Enterprise Network Refresh Project
ITS Director of Enterprise Support Damian Marinaccio explained what the Enterprise Network Refresh Project is.
"[ITS] has been working on a three-year project to basically overhaul the majority of the wireless and even some of the infrastructure behind it," Marinaccio stated.
The Enterprise Network Refresh Project has been in the works since May 2017 and is projected to be finished by December 2018.
"[The project] is just to improve wireless experience, to improve the reliability ... and to improve the connectivity," Marinaccio said.
ITS is replacing the old wireless and wired infrastructure with new technology. The team has been updating the site with the completed areas, and have shown consistent progress toward their anticipated December deadline.
Marinaccio defined their progress overall.
“The project is little more than halfway through ... as of Oct. 19, ... about 87 percent [done] with the project ... We plan on finishing on December 2018.”
So for students still having problems with the Wi-Fi, it will hopefully come to pass.
Addressing Wi-Fi Problems Immediately
While waiting for the Enterprise Network Refresh Project to finish, there are still ways for students to address the current issues they’re facing.
Student Government (SG) technology committee chair Erica Parker, a fifth year Computer Networking and Systems Administration major, and SG director of services Gabe Landau, a fourth year Web and Mobile Computing major, discussed some alternatives.
“RAs can provide [Ethernet cables] for students looking for them,” Parker said.
However, for even quicker possible solutions, walking to a different area and testing Wi-Fi connectivity could do the job.
Landau primarily urged students to go to ITS with any Wi-Fi issues however.
"If you do run into something ... even if it’s already resolved ... you should report it to ITS so that they know about it. It’s the best way that these issues are tracked and worked on,” Landau said.
Macchiano described the ITS team as “strong and dedicated,” making sure to address issues by investigating the issue thoroughly and changing the system so that the same problem won’t happen twice.
"The biggest thing students can do [to get better Wi-Fi service] is to report to ITS," Macchiano stated. "The more we know, the more we can do and improve the network to the best it can be.”
"The more we know, the more we can do and improve the network to the best it can be.”