NSU students finding enough cyberspace
Feb 28, 2013 (American News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Northern State University students seem to have better luck with wireless Internet service than some of their peers on other college campuses in South Dakota.
At some schools, particularly South Dakota State University in Brookings, students have lodged complaints that the bandwidth they're allowed to use, especially at night, isn't enough to smoothly watch videos on Netflix or Hulu. But such instances at NSU are minimal, according to students and university officials.
Sophomore Misti Ward said she occasionally gets bumped off NSU's wireless Internet system or notices some other type of hiccup. But, she said, getting kicked off the system was more of a problem last year than it is this year. And she qualified it as a mild annoyance, not a major problem.
Students haven't complained that the university doesn't have enough wireless bandwidth, said Debbi Bumpous, chief information technology officer at NSU. If there were a bandwidth capacity concern, the school would address it, she said.
NSU's wireless bandwidth capacity is 195 megabits, Bumpous said. Of that, 135 is allotted to students, she said.
"Our subscription level right now meets the needs of students and the campus," Bumpous said.
That's not to say there are never glitches, she said. During late evening hours, the system's capacity can be close to maxed out, she said. Those are popular hours for students to watch videos or gamers to be online, and both video games and videos on services such as Netflix consume considerable bandwidth, she said.
But students say they haven't noted major problems.
Mark Olson, a freshman from Aberdeen, was using NSU's wireless Internet service to seamlessly play the video game Gary's Mod in the NSU Student Union Wednesday afternoon.
"I have not run into any problems with slow Internet on campus," he said.
He mostly uses the campus Internet during daytime hours, either to do homework or play video games, he said. He lives off campus.
Ward also lives off campus, but she takes night classes, so she uses the network in the evening, too. More and more instructors are incorporating online work or articles into classes, she said Wednesday, while using wireless Internet in the student union to read an article for class.
Academic applications have first priority to NSU's wireless capacity, Bumpous said. But people who play video games or watch movies or television shows online haven't complained about lag time or other issues, she said.
NSU can shape traffic on the Internet system, said Jodi Casanova, director of networking at the university. She said Desire2Learn, the public university system's course management system, gets top priority on the system.
Freshman Jamie Voelker, from Hutchinson, Minn., said the wireless service on campus generally works well. She said she's most apt to use Netflix, for instance, between 7 and 10 a.m. in her residence hall, and she never notices lag time.
The one application that doesn't agree with NSU's wireless is Skype, she said. The program allows people to make video calls via the Internet, but Voelker said she can't get it to work on campus. So instead, she said, she keeps in contact with family and friends by calling them or using social media services such as Facebook.
Voelker said she doesn't have any problems with wireless bandwidth while in classes during the day. And, she said, her smartphone works well on the system.
NSU has been increasing its bandwidth capacity regularly in recent years, Bumpous said. In 2008, the school had only 28 megabits of capacity, she said. She expects the capacity will increase again before next school year.
It's not that students access wireless service with more devices -- laptops, tablets, smartphones -- rather it is the services the students use that drives demand, she said. The popularity of Netflix, Hulu and online gaming continues to grow, she said.
Casanova said just more than 1,700 nonuniversity devices access campus wireless. They belong to students, staff and faculty as opposed to NSU, she said. Computers, tablets and phones are registered to 1,275 unique users, she said.
While there aren't restrictions on how much Internet service a student can use throughout the course of a semester or school year, there is a use cap of 3 megabits at a time, Casanova said. That prevents peer-to-peer file sharing, which is often illegal, she said. It might also affect some online gamers, she said.
Once a week, Bumpous said, early on Thursday mornings, the wireless system kicks off users and they have to sign in the next time they want to access campus Internet. When they do, antivirus and security programs are run to make sure the devices accessing the Web are secure. But, she said, the practice of kicking users off the system once a week will change next year with a new service provider.
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