U asks for feedback to boost Wi-Fi

More hardware to increase Internet access should be installed early next year.

by Kyle Stowe

The University of Minnesota’s Office of Information Technology  is beginning work this fall to boost wireless Internet coverage around campus.

A task force of University employees, students and OIT officials will map out which areas need boosts in Wi-Fi signal, with the goal of starting hardware installations in February.

Wireless Internet access points are added every year, but this year OIT officials are considering feedback from the University community more than ever after surveys and meetings last spring showed that Wi-Fi access is a major concern on campus.

“This will be the first time we’ve engaged on this level,” said Louis Hammond, OIT’s senior manager of networking and telecommunication services. “This will help us learn where people really want [more access points].”

The surveys and face-to-face meetings found that of all technology concerns University students and employees had, wireless Internet issues were the biggest, said Susan Strubel, OIT’s associate chief information officer.

She said the task force will make it easier to give feedback about wireless Internet issues. Based on feedback about connectivity problems and dead zones on campus, the group will decide the best spots to add more Wi-Fi access points.

The task force will also consider how many devices each access point can handle, as people continue accessing Wi-Fi from more types of devices, Strubel said.

“We’ve put a lot of effort in without adequate results in the past,” she said. “We want to make sure that we get results out of this next initiative.”

OIT workers install about 50 wireless access points each month, Hammond said, each costing about $1,400 for installation and hardware. Funding comes from the University’s Information Technology budget and individual departments.

Ann Miller, assistant to the chair of the University’s Department of Sociology, said she’s been satisfied with the wireless Internet connection in her workspace since the department paid OIT to install more access points last year.

Miller said she would like to see improved signal strength on other parts of campus, including the spaces between West Bank buildings, where she’s experienced connectivity problems.

Aerospace engineering sophomore Katiee Glasheen said she’d like to see more coverage outside, including the mall area between Northrop Auditorium and Coffman Union.

“For those few months that it’s warm out, it would be nice to see more Wi-Fi coverage outside since so many people are out there,” she said.

Glasheen said she’s had problems with wireless dead zones while sitting in hallways outside classrooms.

“It’s really inconvenient,” she said. “It would be really nice if they could fix some of those spots.”

Strubel said she hopes students and employees will bring their concerns, ideas and recommendations to the task force.

“The more feedback we receive,” she said, “the better we can understand the problems.”