Students express frustration over inconsistent wifi access across campus

Illustration by Sydney Smith

Every student experiences technology frustration, especially when it comes to wifi connection. 

In the last three years, there have been eight Bronco Alerts about network outages. But, every student experiences technological difficulties that Bronco Alerts don’t cover.

Emi Holland, a junior studying dual elementary and special education major at Boise State, expressed how difficult last semester was with accessing wifi.

“We’d be in class and the Wi-Fi would go out and we wouldn’t be able to do anything because we need our computers to be able to do all the work,” Holland said. “Sometimes it’d be weird logging on with your password. But other than that, it was just last semester that it was terrible…our entire class would not have Wi-Fi. And then our teachers wouldn’t have Wi-Fi, they couldn’t load the slides.” 

Student fees and other funds go to the network around campus in classroom buildings like the Interactive Learning Center (ILC )and the Student Union Building (SUB). Student Housing uses student payments to fund the network inside student dorms and housing. 

Other students have had similar problems with Wi-Fi at Boise State. 

“I think it’s ridiculous, honestly,” Anna Ayres, business administration major said. “I think the amount of time I waste trying to connect or disconnect, figuring out which wifi to use on which areas of campus is tough. There’s always times when there are outages when you’re in the middle of an assignment or a quiz.” 

Kylie Sather, a business major, shared that accessing Wi-Fi in the COBE building has been a hassle. 

“There’s been many times I’ve had professors who’ve had to pivot for their lesson because of the Wi-Fi,” Sather said. “We live on campus too, and sometimes it’ll just go out and I can’t ever connect to anything. It happens at the most random times, too.” 

Peter Jurhs, ​​Executive Director of Network Infrastructure and Services of the Office of Information Technology works to ensure all networks are accessible and functional across campus.

Jurhs discussed the event from last August where an internet outage delayed classes.

“The result is the internet connectivity was severed for us by a construction contractor cutting the fiber over there by Burger Belly, there at the corner of Broadway and Belmont. And that was in August,” Jurhs said. “The trick is, there’s a lot between you, and the actual what would truly be the internet. And the question is, what is the one piece that’s not working between you and the internet. And in that case, it was a configuration issue.”

Boise State has two internet providers, one from the west and the east running what Jurhs calls an “enterprise”. 

Different from coffee shops or home internet networks with a single access point and smaller networks, Boise State’s networks apply the same security whether a student is in the ILC or Ruch Engineering Building. The two providers are IRON (Idaho Regional Optical Network) and Zayo.

These two networks make up Boise State’s “commodity internet”, a term Jurhs says is another way to explain typical internet connection.

Although in a large lecture hall there are some flaws in the system according to Jurhs. 

“If the average person truly understood how all of this works to get your laptop to connect and pull down data from pretty much any resource in the world, you would understand the miracle of how well that actually works,” Jurhs said. 

Access points can be tricky in certain places and rooms on campus because of device density.

“There’s probably your laptop, your phone, you may have an Apple watch … you could have three or four devices with you, then try and connect at the same time to Wi-Fi,” Jurhs said. 

In a large lecture hall with everyone’s personal devices, multiple access points in a single room can become muddled, slowing down internet usage. Another issue could be a device is used to connecting to a certain access point in a building or location.

“This is stuff that I’ve experienced,” Juhrs said. “Sometimes devices are sticky, they like to try and continue to connect to an access point down the hall. So you’ve moved from Class A to Class B and Class C is four classrooms down the hall, but it (the device) can still hear that access point that was over there.” 

Jurhs recommended rebooting a device if the internet cannot be accessed, or calling OIT’s number at 284-264-357 for help and to inform the office of weak internet access points around campus.

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