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SMC will upgrade Internet

Megan O'Neil | Friday, October 7, 2005

Just days after warning students to buckle down for a year of slow Internet connections, Saint Mary’s director of Information Technology Keith Fowlkes announced Thursday the reallocation of $17,000 to increase the College’s bandwidth.

Currently operating at 6.5 Megabits, the Internet connection will expand to 45 Megabits, providing for substantially faster maneuvering of the Web and legal downloading of music.

Student frustration with the slow Internet connection increased in recent weeks. Many students said the situation was hindering their ability to complete schoolwork.

Upon student government officers’ request, Fowlkes attended Monday’s Board of Governance meeting and answered questions about the cause of the sluggish connection and possible solutions.

Fowlkes told Board members he was unsure when the situation would improve and encouraged students to be “frugal” with the Internet.

But after the meeting, Fowlkes communicated students’ concerns to vice president and dean of faculty Pat White and vice president for finance and administration Laurie Stickelmaier, who authorized him to reallocate the necessary funds.

“Students come here to get the best education possible and they expect certain services,” Fowlkes said. “[The decision] wasn’t because we had a lot of upset students. It was because the students presented an intelligent and honest argument to us about their needs.”

Updated technology, Fowlkes said, is considered a “core service” of the College and is critical to academic life.

Fowlkes is hoping the project will be completed by the end of December, but said he was unable to provide a specific date. He also said when it does occur students will see an immediate improvement in connection speed.

“We are in the process of getting [a] quote,” Fowlkes said. “A request was made [Wednesday] to our service provider and we are waiting for information from them.”

The slow Internet connection is not a result of any internal network problems, Fowlkes said.

“On campus all the network connections are brand new and very fast,” Fowlkes said. “It is the connection of our network to the Internet that is slow.”

Fowlkes attributed much of the problem to the increasing popularity of Web sites such as iTunes, which allows students to legally download music files off the Internet. Such files fill enormous amounts of space and drastically slow down the system.

Information Technology did anticipate problems with the College’s connection capacity and slightly increased it over the summer, Fowlkes said.

“It worked fine for the first few weeks but it just got saturated like our other lower speed circuits,” Fowlkes said.

Due to financial constraints, Fowlkes did not believe he would be able to significantly increase the bandwidth in the near future. But by cutting back on internal operating costs, the College was able to come up with the money.

While the increase to 45 Megabits this year will certainly speed up the College’s Internet connection, Fowlkes said he anticipates having to add an additional 45 Megabits in the next couple of years.

“We needed bandwidth badly not only for student Internet traffic but also for new technologies that are coming down the road and for the library’s need for expansion of electronic resources,” Fowlkes said.

Communication with the College’s foreign campuses in Italy and Ireland should also improve with the faster connection, Fowlkes said.