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Internet sluggish at SMC

Lauren Lavelle | Monday, October 3, 2005

More than just a month into the academic year, Saint Mary’s students are still experiencing problems with the campus Internet connection – and the Department of Information Technology says the glitches will not be fixed anytime soon.

The slow connection speed can cause students to wait up to several hours to load Web sites. Many said they are upset because the slow connection prevents them from completing online tasks such as checking e-mail or doing research for class.

“I get really frustrated when I need to use the Internet to do homework and I have to sit and wait for what feels like hours,” junior Kirsten Kensinger said.

The Internet problems have also caused students to change their schedules to fit the times when their computers will be most effective.

“I end up staying up late or getting up early to do work because that is when the Internet is fast,” said freshman Amanda Jaszkowski. “It is frustrating because when I want to do my homework in the afternoon, I can’t. It is just really inconvenient.”

With no recent improvement in the connection speed, many students said they want an explanation.

“I don’t know why the Internet is so slow this year,” junior Kristin Heath said. “I don’t understand why [the Department of Information Technology] hasn’t addressed the issue yet. Students have no idea what the problem is.”

Director of Information Technology Keith Fowlkes said the connection is slow because the College does not currently have the capacity to accommodate the amount of Internet traffic moving through campus circuits. Fowlkes attributes the recent increase of traffic to the popularity of movie downloads, file transfers and music programs like iTunes.

“Purchasing music through iTunes and other legitimate online music providers is good, but it puts a real strain on our off-campus Internet connections,” he said.

Sharing iTunes and using Internet radio programs requires a constant connection to the network circuits. These constant connections drain available space for other traffic to flow through the system, Fowlkes said.

Fowlkes also said this is also a problem with other legitimate downloading and purchasing sites like Napster.

“These programs trample the connection,” he said.

Fowlkes rejects speculation that personal wireless routers slow the system.

“If the problem was with something like wireless routers, the entire network would be slow, not just the Internet connection,” he said.

Fowlkes also said it is unlikely the Internet connection will improve this year. While Saint Mary’s annually increases the size of its Internet circuits, “as soon as we add more capacity, it gets taken up,” Fowlkes said.

To remedy the problem, Saint Mary’s would need to increase the amount of Megabytes on which the current system operates. Such an increase in space would cost an additional $15,000 annually – an expense not budgeted for the 2005-06 academic year.

“We do have plans in place to address the problem for next year,” Fowlkes said.

In the meantime, Fowlkes advises students to limit their use of programs like iTunes and Internet radio and use of downloading sites such as Napster.