Wi-Fi difficulties plague campus

A plan to reboot Allegheny’s wireless network was announced in an email sent out on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 7:47 a.m. The reboot aimed to address the recent difficulties students experienced attempting to connect to the Allegheny Students Wi-Fi network.
“We recognize that connectivity issues have caused disruption and appreciate your continued patience as we work to resolve these issues,” the email read.
A subsequent email sent out at 10:06 a.m. announced that the reboot had successfully restored the network.
Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department Shanna Kirschner said some of her students had been experiencing network connectivity issues since Thursday, Oct. 20.
“I did have some seniors approach me via email late Thursday night saying they were having trouble getting on the Wi-Fi,” Kirschner said. “I heard from a couple of other people when we met (in class) on Friday, (Oct. 21,) that they had had issues.”
Due to the nature of the assignment that her students were working on, Kirschner said that the majority were able to complete it on time. However, other students on campus did have difficulties working on and completing their academic work.
Madelyn Harrington, ’25, said the Wi-Fi problems impeded her ability to complete her assignments.
“I’ll be working on my assignment on Google Docs and I’ll look up from typing and see that none of what I wrote was on there because it was trying to connect,” Harrington said. “When it does re-connect, none of it shows up and I have to re-think of what I just wrote. It’s very frustrating.”
Jess Kochik, ’23, also had problems before she switched from trying to connect to the Allegheny Students network in favor of the Summer-Guest network.
“Generally, the past couple weeks, (Wi-Fi connectivity) has been (unreliable),” Kochik said. “It was really inconvenient. I didn’t have the time to go somewhere to read a 20-page article for my class the next day — it was just not going to happen.”
Systems Administrator Doug Tomer said he first received reports of students experiencing difficulties on Friday, Oct. 21. In some reports students said they had been unable to connect to the Wi-Fi since Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Tomer said the campus-wide network connectivity problems stemmed from a piece of equipment called a controller that needed to be rebooted.
“There’s a controller installed in our main network closet here at Murray (Hall) that controls all of the access points that are on campus to ensure that they have the correct Wi-Fi networks and all of the other background settings that go into providing those Wi-Fi networks,” Tomer said. “That controller had some sort of an issue where it stopped relaying login checks to our login-checking servers. So even though it looked like you should be able to connect to Allegheny Students, (the controller) was unable to do those checks and it wasn’t letting anyone finish getting connected to the networks.”
Tomer was unsure what caused the 11-year-old controller to stop functioning, but believed it was most likely caused by a piece of software running on it that crashed.
“I think it was just something that happens from time to time,” Tomer said. “It has worked fine, but it does need to be replaced.”
In a phone call on Oct. 25, a service representative from Allegheny’s current network provider, Apogee, told The Campus that it appeared the entire Wi-Fi network was down across campus with the exception of two buildings: Murray Hall and Bentley Hall.
Tomer confirmed that the only buildings completely unaffected by the network outages were Murray and Bentley. He said some technical limitations during Bentley’s renovations led Allegheny to install a new controller that solely supports Bentley’s and Murray’s networks. Since Bentley and Murray use a separate controller from the rest of the campus, the campus-wide network outages did not adversely affect them.
The Oct. 26, reboot of the controller did not fix all students’ network connectivity problems.
“I still can’t connect to the Allegheny Students Wi-Fi, so I’m not sure what’s going on,” Kochik said.
For Harrington, the reboot not only failed to ameliorate her computer’s connectivity issues, but also correlated with the deterioration of Wi-Fi connectivity on her phone.
In a follow-up on Oct. 31, Tomer said he had not received any more reports of students being unable to connect to the Wi-Fi.
Last spring, Allegheny opened a contract with Wi-Fiber, a new network provider. Tomer said the recent network connectivity problems were independent of this change in providers, and that the actual switch will not happen for a few months.
“We can’t make any guarantees, but we expect to have the new network available for students when they come back in the spring semester,” Tomer said.
If students still experience network connectivity issues, they can call the Information Technology Help Desk at (814) 332-2755, stop in for Help Desk open hours Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. or open a technology support ticket on webhelp.allegheny.edu.