Slow, clunky Wi-Fi trips up UO students

The Associated Press

EUGENE — The University of Oregon’s clogged and clunky wireless system is a shock to many students.

The predicament began in the fall of 2011, when the demand for Wi-Fi connections on campus began outstripping the bandwidth the UO provides.

The Eugene Register-Guard reports the shortage of capacity is a potential multimillion dollar problem for the school.

Weak, slow or broken connections aren’t unusual, students say. Demand spikes at the beginning of fall, winter and spring terms.

The university devoted $660,000 to tackle the first of these issues — maintaining connections — by the end of this year.

The student population has soared by 40 percent, to 24,500, since 2000, when only 60 people had signed on to the campus Wi-Fi system. The system has failed to keep up.

On the third day of classes, for example, freshman Caitlin Dieni had needed to print her assignments but couldn’t get to them because the wireless system wouldn’t connect.

“Watching TV and movies on a Wi-Fi device that is at most five years old. Those take a lot of bandwidth,” said Professor Andrzej Proskurowski of the UO computer science department.

It’s a “device explosion,” according to EDUCAUSE, the Colorado-based association representing higher education chief information officers. Bandwidth congestion is the No. 1 problem that IT officials face on campuses across the country, according to the organization’s annual survey.

“Take your lawn irrigation system in the neighborhood,” Proskurowski said. “It’s warm, and everybody is watering their lawns and the pressure drops.

“That’s what you experience on the first day of school when everybody wants to register, check this and check that, send an email to Mama — ‘I arrived and I’m fine’ — and there is limited capacity of the pipe of the Wi-Fi,” he said.