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Friday, September 25, 2020

Internet speed to improve by next fall with new equipment

Slow Internet speeds have affected Western’s network as the end of the academic school year approaches, and will continue to occur until new systems are installed at the beginning of fall quarter.

John Lawson, vice provost for information technology for Western, sent an email Thursday, May 28, to students, faculty and staff to address recent and frequent slow speeds and delays affecting people logging onto the university’s network.

“I thought it important for students to understand why things were slow,” Lawson said. “We have business processes that need to go on, and those were being impacted by the traffic.”

Campus Internet appears slow during the day because of the Intrusion Detection [IDS] and Intrusion Protection Systems [IPS], the structure that monitors security threats, has reached its capacity, Lawson said in an email. Every time a person is using their smartphone, tablet or laptop while running applications on campus, they are connecting to Western’s IDS/IPS system.

The IDS/IPS system is designed to monitor activity on incoming and outgoing Internet traffic, and to identify and protect users from any suspicious or harmful malware. At such a high capacity, the system can not provide as thorough security coverage for users.

Since the device’s capacity reached 100 percent in early 2015, Lawson said it is time to replace the system. The system was last replaced six years ago in 2009.

A new IDS/IPS system is expected to be installed before fall quarter 2015 begins, said Linc Nesheim, director of communication and technology services at Western. 

The system will cost $500,000, and state support funds and tuition will be used to fund the new system to aid more traffic on the university’s Internet.

While not everyone on campus is using the Internet at the same time, the scale of people bringing multiple devices to campus increases traffic, Nesheim said.

Using the Internet for academics during the day should take precedence, Lawson said.

Facebook, Snapchat, Youtube, Netflix and Spotify are the top five applications people use that slow down the university’s Internet, Lawson said in an email.

Sophomore Elli Madsen said she thinks the Internet’s slow speed in the library is ironic because many students use the Internet for school-related work.

“I definitely take study breaks for Snapchat and other things that are unrelated [to school],” Madsen said. “I feel like they’re necessary because you can’t get work done without breaks.” 

Madsen said she didn’t have problems with the Internet in past years of at Western like she has had this year.

“[It happens] just about every time I go to use my computer, [and] lately I’ve had to login multiple times, or re-log into it after using the Internet for awhile,” she said.

Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., traffic is high and the Internet slows down, Lawson said. During this time, classes are held and faculty and staff conduct business, resulting in a busy time for work on Western’s campus.

“We know there is a whole lot of academic use [for these programs],” Nesheim said. “We want to be in a position where we don’t have to tell people to think twice about what you’re consuming.”

The system cannot currently handle all the traffic that students, faculty and staff are demanding of it, Lawson said. Business operations and videos in the classroom are delayed, while Internet connectivity is slow and occasionally intermittent. 

“It really isn’t, ‘Don’t use the Internet.’ It is just, ‘Be mindful you are sharing a scarce resource,’” Nesheim said. “Let’s behave like others are sharing this.”

Students should not be discouraged to use those popular applications, but be mindful of what times they log on, Lawson said.

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