UMass Lowell’s wi-fi network, “eduroam,” crashed over the first weekend of November and the network has been sluggish ever since.
UMass Lowell students and faculty know about “eduroam” all too well; the recent outage isn’t the first time the network has gone down, and it won’t be the last. But why does the network keep faltering?
Most wireless networks go down due to connectivity issues, and those issues are usually remedied by unplugging the router and plugging it back in, or restarting the device someone is trying to connect with. On campus, however, students don’t have the luxury to just locate the central router and disconnect it. Simply restarting a laptop or cell phone doesn’t do the trick either. Common wireless networks run typically between 2.4 to 5 gigahertz, which means that outside of confined spaces, one shouldn’t be reliant on a strong signal.
For large businesses and college campuses, connectivity issues can occur for multiple reasons as the wireless frequency crosses larger areas and other networks. Many electronics can cross signals, slowing down multiple wi-fi connections. An abundance of wireless appliances and an unexpected influx of users can also contribute to a slow or nonexistent connection.
UMass Lowell thankfully has a full-time IT team that is constantly updating and checking to make sure “eduroam” is running efficiently and all of UMass Lowell’s technology is up to par. The team also works to aid students and faculty in repairs, maintenance, or just general questions.
With a campus as large as UMass Lowell, it is understandable that “eduroam” will be slow at times. UMass Lowell also offers a second wi-fi channel named “UMass Lowell” but it is an unsecured network and nearly impossible to get a halfway decent signal. Some students, especially the students who live on campus, say that the wi-fi network is cumbersome to work with as there seems to be constant issues with connectivity.
“There are times when I’m here on the weekend and I can’t even submit assignments on my laptop because eduroam is down,” said Angie Lanier, a junior nursing student. “I end up having to use my phone data because of the wi-fi. 90 percent of the time it’s fine, but the other 10 percent is far too much.”
Freshman criminal justice major Adam Konieczny echoes this sentiment. “We’re paying a lot of money to this school and there’s just some things we shouldn’t have to worry about. Reliable wi-fi should be a given. I even contacted [UMass Lowell’s IT team] about eduroam crashing and I never heard back. There isn’t even a second option so if eduroam is down, then the whole school is basically down.”
The student frustration with the IT team may or may not be unwarranted. But what exactly caused the outage during the first weekend of November? And is there a reason as to why eduroam is running so slow across campus?
“I have a theory,” Lanier said. “I think it might have to with the amount of students using the wi-fi at once mixed in with other wireless devices on campus. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t UMass Lowell be more aware that the signal might not be strong enough for the school?”
UMass Lowell’s Student Solution Center refers the UMass Lowell community to the IT team regarding internet issues or questions, but unfortunately the IT team was unavailable for comment.
“It’s totally bizarre. Students can’t live in a constant state of worry if they’ll have internet access or not. There were some near breakdowns on my floor because of eduroam,” Konieczny said.