Growth of student population affects WiFi capacity

Camila Fernandez/Assistant News Director

The continually-growing student population has started to affect the University WiFi access.

Having over 50,000 students — and counting — logging into the University WiFi at once proved to be too much for the system, when it began malfunctioning about two weeks ago.

Because of a congestion in WiFi users, a particular code of a software was preventing them from authenticating their username and password credentials all at the same time, said Robert Grillo, vice president and chief information officer of the Division of Information and Technology.

“So it was kind of like a race—whoever got to it first got in, if not, they didn’t,” said Grillo.

The software’s code was not allowing authentication which accommodates to the maintenance and upgrade of the wireless system.

“There aren’t too many institutions nationwide that has the aggressive growth plan that FIU has,” said Grillo. “So a lot of systems and vendors hadn’t really experienced very similar loads when it comes to wireless and authenticating.”

After days of the wireless malfunction, on Friday, Oct. 9, an upgrade and code change to wireless controllers took place. A wireless controller is used to manage light-weight access points in large quantities by a network administrator.

“Since we have an engineering center here, it shouldn’t take that long to fix the internet or whatever is causing the problem,” said Laidelyn Mendoza, a senior biology major.

Mendoza said she practically lives in the Green Library, and the absence of WiFi didn’t allow her to study at the University.

Grillo said that instead of making quick changes, the Division of IT took a while to analyze what was going on first in order to make the changes.

“Sometimes in specific areas inside the library, the signal goes off and on — that shouldn’t happen,” said Mendoza. “I had to go home and I don’t like to go home because I don’t have the appropriate resources [to study].”

She said that in the past, she has seen professors re-post tests on the University’s Blackboard because students are prevented from finishing their tests on time due to the WiFi flux. “I guess it’s a headache for them to do that also.”

Grillo said the WiFi worked fine at the beginning of the semester with its 35,000 simultaneous users. So the problem really occurred during the middle of the semester.

About a year and a half ago, the Division of IT eliminated the need for students to insert their username and password every time they logged online. Instead, the University’s wireless connection can now automatically associate the student’s device at its particular access point.

“That helped quite a bit and relieved the redundancy of having to do it every time,” said Grillo.

He said that in locations like large stadiums and concerts, people can get on WiFi without having to authenticate themselves to their device.

Since Monday, the peak time in the amount of wireless users, testing of the new changes has been at its prime time.

“Our attempt is to make sure that we get this rectified and fixed as quickly as possible for all the students, faculty and staff,” Grillo said.


About the Author

Camila Fernandez
A FIU School of Journalism and Mass Communications Student - Began working with Student Media in 2013.

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