Wi-Fi is an essential tool for the modern American collegiate experience, and this importance has only been emphasized by COVID-19. From submitting assignments to engaging in online classes, the average college student cannot function without reliable access to Wi-Fi, and those on Oklahoma Christian University’s campus are no exception to this fact.
Director of Support Central, Lisa Herndon, acknowledged that Wi-Fi is not a privilege, but a need.
“We know that especially during these times the internet is crucial so we want to make sure we have the best possible internet for all of our students,” Herndon said.
Despite the need for internet connection, it is becoming a rarer treasure to find on Oklahoma Christian’s campus. This semester has seen an uptick in Wi-Fi related issues across campus, with many students struggling to connect to the internet in their own living spaces. Cara Cecil, a senior elementary education major, shared her Wi-Fi difficulties she and her roommates have been experiencing in their Phase 4 apartment.
“Last semester was fine; it never was a real issue but this semester it has been a nightmare,” Cecil said. “Depending on the time of day and how many people in my apartment are also on Wi-Fi, sometimes in the evening it will reconnect every 20 seconds. It’s just impossible to do anything on the internet which is really frustrating.”
Cecil and her roommates reached out to Support Central and said even though they were helpful and responsive, their issues did not improve.
“We’ve contacted Support Central at least two times this semester and it hasn’t really changed since then,” Cecil said. “They told us to use the OC Guest Wi-Fi, which we’ve done but it doesn’t really work that well either. We often turn on a hotspot on one of my roommate’s phones just to be able to do our homework.”
While others may not have issues as severe, Wi-Fi connection is still a frequent battle. Ethan Smith, a senior interdisciplinary major, is careful with how he uses his limited internet connection.
“I never use the Wi-Fi on my phone in my living space because it’s usually worse whenever I do, so I just get off it (the Wi-Fi) whenever I’m using my phone,” Smith said. ”My laptop hasn’t had too many issues but my gaming console does. It can act up when I’m watching stuff on my console.”
Wanting to investigate this issue more, the Talon Instagram page put up a poll asking if students living on-campus were having issues this semester with the Wi-Fi in their dorm or apartment. Of the students that responded to the poll, 92% of them stated they had been having Wi-Fi troubles in their living space. With students trapped inside during last week’s intense weather, those frustrations only increased.
“Especially over the last few days, having virtual learning days, I’ve become very passionate about our Wi-Fi problems,” Cecil said. “It’s been frustrating being in our apartment this week and last week. I can’t go anywhere else to get better Wifi. We’re still expected to do our assignments, and the Wi-Fi issues made a project that should’ve taken 30 minutes take 2 1/2 hours because I kept waiting for my Wi-Fi to connect.”
Support Central also acknowledges that there have been more student submitted tickets than usual for this type of year. Herndon attributes the issues that the campus is experiencing to external routers that other students have set up in their dorms and apartments.
“We have at least one issue that we know about that students can actually help us with, which is students putting up their own router in their rooms,” Herndon said. “Putting up your own router seems like it would help Wi-Fi issues but it actually doesn’t. It actually causes channel collision and so when students have their own routers it makes things more difficult, especially for their neighbors.”
According to Herndon, this channel collision creates slower Wi-Fi for all parties involved, and with a sudden increase of routers across campus this semester, it comes as no surprise to her that students are experiencing worse Wi-Fi in their living spaces.
“We’ve pinpointed several routers in different areas,” Herndon said. “For example, in Phase 3 and Phase 4 we know about six and suspect that there are five others in each. This causes things to slow down everywhere. If we’ve contacted you about unplugging a router, unplugging those actually helps everyone have a better signal.”
Whether these outliers decide to disconnect their routers or not, it is clear that students on campus are becoming increasingly irritated by the situation. Considering the technology fee put in place a couple of years ago, which charges students $100-plus for their portion of the Wi-Fi as well as access to Blackboard, Lockdown Browser, Turnitin and other services that need the internet, their frustration seems appropriate. Herndon urges those who are experiencing issues to reach out to Support Central.
“I want students to hear that we want to know about their problems and that the best way to let us know about those problems is to submit a ticket to Support Central,” Herndon said. “That can be done by email at email@example.com. The more specific they can be about what they’re experiencing, the easier it is for us to troubleshoot those issues. Also, if they can tell us if it’s happening on different devices, that information is really helpful to us.”
Regarding Support Central and the Wi-Fi issues across campus, Smith provided this closing statement.
“I think Support Central is doing a great job. I know their job isn’t easy. I just feel like it (the Wi-Fi) should be better and we shouldn’t be having this many problems with it, especially during a global pandemic when we all need it to function.”