News in Brief: Internet Speed Doubles

George Waggoner, Director of Campus Technology Support Services, confirmed that on Feb. 15, St. Mary’s Technology Services and the University of Maryland Academic Telecommunications System (UMATS) successfully connected using a 100 MB/s internet line installed by Verizon two weeks ago. The connection fulfills services first requested one year ago.

Waggoner said the delay in announcement allowed Technology Services to test campus internet usage under ‘normal’ conditions yesterday, before students were aware of the increased speed.

He says the campus never used more the full capacity but expects that once students realize they can stream videos and other media content, the campus may use all 100 MB/s at peak hours.

The connection uses a more expensive Ethernet Private Line (EPL) instead of the originally requested Transport Land Service (TLS).

The 100 MB/s connection is more than double the previous 45 MB/s connection.

The increased speed was first requested by St. Mary’s technology services more than a year ago.

 

News in Brief: Internet Speed Doubles

George Waggoner, Director of Campus Technology Support Services, confirmed that yesterday, Feb. 15, St. Mary’s Technology Services and the University of Maryland Academic Telecommunications System (UMATS) successfully connected using a 100 MB/s internet line installed by Verizon two weeks ago. The connection fulfills services first requested one year ago.

Waggoner said the delay in announcement allowed Technology Services to test campus internet usage under ‘normal’ conditions yesterday, before students were aware of the increased speed. He says the campus never used more the full capacity but expects that once students realize they can stream videos and other media content, the campus may use all 100 MB/s at peak hours.

The connection uses a more expensive Ethernet Private Line (EPL) instead of the originally requested Transport Land Service (TLS).

The 100 MB/s connection is more than double the previous 45 MB/s connection.

The Wait Continues for Faster Internet

At last week’s Student Government Association (SGA) Meeting, Campus Technology Support Services (CTSS) Director George Waggoner came to explain the current situation of Internet on-campus, and gave students some difficult but exciting choices on its future.

Waggoner first explained why students have yet to see the on-campus Internet speeds increase; Verizon, which promised the increased speed via a faster connection line coming from University of Maryland College Park to Leonardtown, has yet to follow through.

He said, “We were promised [a faster connection] in April, in July, in September…here we stand with nothing” and that, “I stand up here embarrassed for Verizon and not for us. We hopefully will have connection in by the end of next year…they are working as hard as they can to get it done.”

Furthermore, according to Waggoner the University of Maryland Academic Telecommunications System (UMATS), which is paying Verizon for the upgrade, is withholding payment until the permanent line is put in (now slated for 2012-2013) and is having a temporary line at 100 megabits a second put in.

He said, “Right now you will have [faster connections] by February…but I’m not promising anything. I can’t.”

Waggoner then turned his attention to a major choice the college will ultimately have to make regarding its funds for CTSS: whether the community would prefer faster speeds or wireless Internet in living spaces.

Waggoner said that CTSS had done an analysis on how and where to put wireless routers around living spaces, and stated that they’d most likely be in the common areas of dorms and in every other living space in Lewis Quad, Waring Commons, and the Townhouses.

He further added that for suites and townhouses that the connection would most likely “bleed” into other areas beyond the common rooms, and that students will likely be able to pick it up in their bedrooms and around their houses.

He added, however, that the speeds would be slower than what students currently get from wired connections as a result of the connection sharing, and that the whole project would cost around $85 thousand.

In response, the SGA almost unanimously called for faster speeds over wireless, even though speed increases have a yearly charge while wireless is a one-time fee.

Townhouse Senator Senior Kyle McGrath said, “I’m fairly certain the…main cause of dissatisfaction is the speed of the Internet. I had an update for my xbox…it took me four hours.”

Townhouse Senator Junior Kevin Paul echoed the sentiment, and said, “I think that [speed] is much more important in the short term…but both would be wise investments.”

Waggoner, in response, said that the college would ultimately cover the expense, and that, “We’re going to do something about increasing Internet speed, but how fast you want us to do so depends on how much the college is willing to front.”

No Leaps and Bounds in Internet Speed Increase

Images Courtesy of Campus Technology Student Services.
Images Courtesy of Campus Technology Student Services.
Annoyingly laggy Internet speeds on campus might be short-lived, due to a soon-to-be upgraded infrastructure – or, on the other hand, could just continue. Although the College’s Internet speed is set to more than double in October, from 45 megabits to 100, this might not do a lot to speed up the most bandwidth-intense activity of Internet browsing.

According to Jeff Ranta, the Assistant Director of Network Services, the biggest bandwidth hog is streaming video. “That’s what’s really eating up most of it.” And Ranta thinks that the increased Internet speed will only help somewhat. “Once we get this 100 megabit connection, it will be nice, but it will only be a slight increase.”

The College pays its Internet Service Provider (ISP), the University of Maryland Academic Telecommunications System, for its current DS3 (or T-3) connection. But Ranta said it would only cost twice as much for the College to get an Internet connection 20 times as fast as what it currently has.

What’s the holdup, then?

“Our problem is Verizon has the only leased line that comes down to campus. … We’re waiting on Verizon to install necessary equipment in place to support 100 Megabits (download speed).”

Verizon would also need to support the gigabit connection, should the College be willing to pay. “It’s all a question of what Verizon can support… and what the College can pay.”
Ranta said he thought if the College could patch through to gigabit speeds, then the needs of students and faculty – and, increasingly, classes – would be satiated for some time.

This could be done through a partnering with others in the county to pay for the laying of a fiber optical cable. Then, St. Marys’ Internet connection would rival – and best – some of the far larger Colleges in Maryland.

“[It] might take 10 years to make back the cost, but once we have it we have it. There’s not really a limit of the amount you can push through fiber,” just a limit to the infrastructure supporting the fiber optical cable.

Tech Support Partnering with Bell Logix

Campus Technology Support Services (CTSS) has unveiled a new partnership with Bell Industries/Bell Tech Logix, a company that will provide technology support and assessment for the college starting October 1.

This support service will offer Tier 1 assessments when calls are made to CTSS. Calls will still be made to the same extensions, x4357 or x2357 or to 866-291-2796 from off campus, where they will speak to a member Bell Tech Logix staff. According to Lisa Youngborg, Office/User Support Administrator at CTSS, Bell Tech Logix has St. Mary’s specific staff trained to help deal with problems specific to St. Mary’s technology as well as broader concerns, such as password resets or software issues.

Janet Immink, the Business Development Manager of Bell Tech Logix, has been working closely with Youngborg to develop this partnership. Immink said the focus was “providing service to take care of entry level issues.”

The call center will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If the call center is unable to resolve the issue over the phone, a work ticket will be sent to CTSS so their office can work to resolve the problem.

Youngborg said, “This campus needs front end customer service for immediate support….[This service will] help staff [at St. Mary’s] a lot in filling a vacuum with software support.”

The goal is to allow CTSS staff to have more time to deal with more specific technology issues. Immink said, “We want people on campus to do higher level work.”
No staff positions have been cut in making this partnership and “nothing physically will change in this office,” said Youngborg.

The partnership with Bell Tech Logix was instituted because of CTSS’ desire to provide better and more thorough support, but was limited because of their limited staff. It was negotiated through the Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium, of which St. Mary’s is a member, starting with a one-year contract.

Throughout the process, Youngborg and Immink said they would be evaluating and reviewing the effectiveness of the call center. Immink said she has been in “constant communication” with CTSS and Youngborg there would be weekly reviews of the service in which she would look over what issues Bell Tech Logix is getting calls about and how well and how quickly they are being handled. The reviews would decrease in frequency if CTSS is feeling satisfied with Bell Tech Logix’s service.

Youngborg also said that “privacy will be protected.” Bell Tech Logix does not have access to student records or any sensitive information.

Both parties have also been pleased with the partnership so far. Youngborg said, “We are very happy with our working relationship with them,” and Immink said “Our experience has been nothing but positive.”

Senior Teddy Bisrat, a Student Consultant at CTSS (one of the students who provides support at the desk in Baltimore Hall), said, “It would take a…load off everyone’s backs.” He said that in the evenings, it’s usually just a student sitting at the desk. “It would be a big help. Lots of students come in in the evening…It could resolve a lot of student’s problems quickly…I fully support it.”