Since its implementation over the summer, FalconNet, the University’s local wi-fi service, has seen its share of both successes and challenges as it adapts to the needs of students and faculty alike.
“It’s okay,” said junior Daniel Louis. “But it could still use a little tuning.”
This “tuning” is exactly what the university has planned. Goals such as a 400 percent increase in bandwidth and a 10 gigabit fiber optic backbone have already been laid out, providing a secure basis for changes to come.
“I feel like we’re in a stable spot,” said Craig Gray, chief information officer for the University. In fact, FalconNet has seen few setbacks since a glitch early last semester which required the replacement of all of the newly installed Ruckus access points for more reliable models. Since then, bandwidth usability has been increased 200 percent with more to come.
The next measure to be undertaken will be a process known as Application Filtering. This will place a cap on bandwidth hogging applications such as Netflix. Despite this, students should not worry about their precious shows and movies. Application Filtering should not affect individual streaming except in extreme cases and, instead, will allow more reliable internet usage for all users of a particular connection. Furthermore, websites known for heavy virus and malware traffic will be blocked entirely.
A pressing concern currently being addressed is that of wi-fi in academic buildings. “You can tell different buildings need it more,” said freshman Sarah Doherty. This is due to an outdated, degrading fiber system between buildings. This system is being repaired. Soon, the internet service in academic buildings from Comer to Reynolds should function with a connection like FalconNet.
Similar questions have arisen about the secondary wi-fi service, UMGaming. This connection has sparked concern due to its inability to actually support online games, which are wildly popular on campus. According to Gray, this is not the intended purpose of the connection. UMGaming is to instead be used as a side network for those who are, for whatever reason, unable to access FalconNet. If a student’s device can connect to FalconNet, they do not need UMGaming. This upcoming summer, UMGaming will be removed for a more cohesive platform, so students should expect a slightly different wi-fi registration process next year.
Gray is confident with present efforts. “If you don’t have infrastructure,” he said. “Any innovation is going to fall flat.” However, that does raise the question of what is to come. As far as general infrastructural changes, the primary focus, according to Gray, will be in the campus’ IT department.
Currently, IT only has seven technicians employed but hopes to boast upwards of 21 in the near future. The previous outsourced service is being removed in favor of a university office, one that already has its own help desk. Students are encouraged to call 205-665-6512 for any technical issues. Early next term, around September or October, plans for an entirely new IT office are to go into effect.
Even now, Gray asserts that connection is miles ahead of where it stood in previous years. “We’ve connected more devices than we’ve ever seen before,” said Gray. He maintains that this strong support is intended to not only persist, but greatly improve as time goes on.
Once all of the basic groundwork has been laid out involving FalconNet, bandwidth usage and IT, the University has a multitude of exciting plans for future innovation. Such plans include a possible 3D printing lab and more technologically interactive classrooms involving lecture streaming and other such amenities.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Gray, but he remains confident in the service. While students still have their questions and complaints, Gray welcomes the input as the University seeks to create a smoother and more reliable wireless service.