Castor residents disconnected from campus

Residents of Castor Hall returned from winter vacation only to find that their rooms had weak Internet connections or none at all.

Sarah Sollitto, a junior sociology major who lives in Castor, is finding that the unstable Internet connection in the residence hall adds hours to tasks and activities that used to take her minutes.

“Sometimes it works and then it shuts off,” she said. “Now, I have to either go over to the Library or over to the Marshall Center computer lab. I waited half an hour to print out two pieces of paper the other day because there’s no Internet here.”

Complaints over wireless connections come just months after the Resident Hall Association (RHA) and Resident Services (RS) reworked Internet access in student housing. Some rooms will only have one Ethernet access point – a decision that’s brought complaints from residents.

Wireless routers are being installed in all of the resident halls as a result of a decision made last year between the RHA and RS.

University Information Technology and three other contractors began to install the wireless systems in September, 2007. Installations for Castor began the second week of winter break, said Christopher Martinez of University Information Technology (IT).

Each room in Castor Hall is equipped with data ports that provide two outlets for voice, or a telephone service, and two outlets for data, otherwise known as the Ethernet connection ports, Martinez said.

He also said that it would have been too costly to add more wire to rooms with a wireless access point.

“We came up with the idea to instead borrow one port from the rooms that had an access point in them,” he said. “Not every room has one, because of the way the signal spreads out.”

Now, some Castor residents living in rooms with access points are left with just one Ethernet connection. This means that one roommate will use the Ethernet connection while another roommate relies on wireless access for daily Internet connection.

This is the living situation for Richelle Roberts, a freshman majoring in biomedical science.

“I have to move my computer to the other side of the room and I have to plug in my Ethernet, or I have to hope that the wireless works,” Roberts said. “My connection is really weak. I’ll click a page and it will take a long time to download or it just won’t load up at all.”

For some Castor residents living in a single room that’s also an access point, the installation of wireless ports means that they will lose that Ethernet connection and depend solely on the wireless.

This dependency on wireless Internet is leaving some residents skeptical.

Mandy Chan, a freshman biomedical science major, is tired of waiting to be able to use wireless Internet.

“I had to move all of my stuff before Thanksgiving break and again for winter break so they could work on it and nothing happened,” she said. “Now, I am just kind of fed up and I am just going to use the Ethernet cord for the rest of year.”

About 60 percent of the residents living on campus use laptops, Martinez said, but the University is still going to increase Ethernet access.

“Since we promised to have a data port per bed plus the wireless, we are going to go back and rectify the situation,” he said.

He also said the long-term solution to the issues involving wireless and Ethernet access in Castor is to convert one of the telephone’s voice ports into a data port. The plan will probably not be completed until March.

“In the short term, we have some residents that were in an acute situation where they needed something right now,” he said. “So, we’ve gone ahead and turned on their wireless.”

Jessica Schmidt, a sophomore majoring in English, is still worried about the stability of her Internet connection.

“It’s very slow, even on Ethernet, and luckily I haven’t had to do too much yet,” she said. “But it’s going to be interesting if it doesn’t improve in the next couple of weeks when we really start getting into stuff and it’s going to be really hard to do homework.”

There were about five rooms in Castor where residents had issues with their Internet and needed IT to remove the wireless routers to allow each resident to use an Ethernet connection, Martinez said, but IT fixed those rooms Friday.

“We are going into those rooms and unplugging that access point to open that data port for them,” Martinez said.

Internet installations in Castor Hall are expected to be completed by the end of this week.

Martinez explained that there are a number of reasons why the Internet may seem slow as IT is installing a much faster, fire-walled and certified wireless Internet.

Downloading picture-heavy Web sites or video content could also slow the process, Martinez said.

If any residents have issues with their Internet access, call IT at (813) 974-0913.