The entire Keene State College campus lost its internet connection on Thursday, April 10 for two hours. Luckily, the loss of internet connection did not affect registration which ended on April 8, but it did cause some frustrations for both students and members of the KSC Information Technology (IT) Group and left many questions unanswered.
Connor Crum, a freshman and computer science major and a resident of Fiske Hall said the unstable wireless internet was having an effect on his schoolwork. He noted, “[Students] could connect [to the wireless internet] but they would only hold a connection for a couple minutes … So you couldn’t accomplish anything. You couldn’t turn in assignments to Blackboard. You couldn’t do research for anything you might need to.”
Crum said he tried moving to the library, turning off the adapter in Windows, restarting his laptop, talking to his peers as well as making sure the router in Fiske was working. The one thing he could not try were the Ethernet cables because they were disabled last semester. Crum said, “[Ethernet cables] would help because if you plug in, not everybody is using those access points anymore. I know several people who did use it before and now can’t. They now have to use the wireless.”
Crum stated that he did not contact IT about his issues. However, he did complete a survey in the form of a GoogleDoc posted on a KSC Facebook page which asked for a name, building, room number and detailed description of any problems the student was having with the wireless connection. Kevin Breslend, IT director of Infrastructure Services and Network Secturity, responded, “When we were doing our tuning over the last couple of weeks we had one day where our wireless was unresponsive for a couple of hours…For two hours there was no wireless. There was wireless signal but you couldn’t do anything with it, so we got that fixed.”
“A lot of times in technology you can’t say [what] was the culprit…I don’t really want to get too technical…but it was a version of code…We don’t know what caused it but what fixed it was rolling back a version of code, a patch that the manufacturer had put out for the controllers…We had applied [the patch] weeks before,” Breslend clarified. Breslend explained that there is no test network to try out these changes on, like there would be in corporate. At KSC, there are not enough funds for a test network. When they do make changes to the network, it usually has to be compacted into one hour, between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. In corporate, these changes would be made between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., but those are the busiest hours at KSC, Breslend explained. Breslend noted that the IT Group had reached out to Residential Life for feedback from the students. He stated he was never given the data collected from the GoogleDoc referenced earlier by resident of Fiske, Connor Crum. The only GoogleDoc found was one created for the Monadnock-Huntress-Fiske area. The whereabouts of the information gathered by this GoogleDoc is currently being researched. The Office of Residential Life was contacted but did not respond by press time. Breslend stressed that they take these surveys very seriously and have made changes based on these surveys in the past. The last campus-wide survey they sent out was in 2011 and received a total of 472 responses. They plan on sending it out again in the upcoming weeks.
KSC Chief Information Officer Laura Seraichick explained that wireless internet has been an ongoing process that is part of a four-year plan and this is the final year. The plan includes making the entire campus wireless. They have completed all buildings and will start working on the outdoor access points once the wireless connection becomes more stable, Seraichick said. According to Seraichick, the IT department made changes in January at the recommendation of their wireless vendor, Meru Networks, the same wireless vendor who made Fenway Park of the Boston Red Sox wireless. By Spring Break, they were still not satisfied with the quality of the network. Two of Meru’s engineers came up to the campus a few weeks ago at the request of Seraichick and the IT team to speak with students in residential halls to resolve the issues.
When asked if the wireless connection had anything to do with registration period, she confirmed it was simply a coincidence. Seraichick also stated that Ethernet cables cannot be used once the building is made wireless. She said this is because these are two separate networks and would be too much to maintain, however the wireless internet needs to be consistent enough for the students to rely on if the alternatives are to be disabled.
Seraichick stated that they [IT] realize that students are not reaching out to the IT Group HelpDesk but that the desk has reached out by using social media, and asking students about their wireless connection in the L.P. Young Student Center, residential halls, and on Appian Way. Both Seraichick and Kevin Breslend have even reached out to students on their own in-passing on Appian Way and at tables in the student center. Seraichick meets with students regularly and is also in coordination with Cassie Stepanek, recently appointed chair of the technology committee of KSC’s Student Assembly.
Stepanek stated, “The committee was fairly inactive for most of this year and I took over as chair a few weeks ago. Laura [Seraichick] and I met but mostly discussed ideas for making the committee more involved for next year.”
Throughout the interviews with the members of the IT Department, one concept was stressed repeatedly: the HelpDesk is there to help. Without knowledge of the problem, the HelpDesk can’t help. “We don’t want people out there going, ‘this sucks!’ I hate it when I hear that and I would say a good majority of our networking team has spent hours and hours on this over the last four years to get it ready,” Breslend said.
Seraichick stressed that “their heads are not in the sand.” For now, Seraichick and Breslend said that they feel as if they have the problem under control.
Taylor Howe can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org