Campus network update is long overdue

By Editorial Board

Columbia’s website promises prospective students they will be immersed in an innovative environment with “leading-edge” programs that boast “state-of-the-art technology.” It is true that professional equipment and digitally-integrated classrooms are readily available, but one technological failure continually holds students, faculty and staff back—Columbia’s Internet network.

Students frequently struggle to connect their laptops, smartphones and other devices to the college’s Wi-Fi network. If students are lucky enough to connect on their first attempt, they often have to reconnect to the network several times in a single session. Professors who integrate multimedia into their lessons are forced to spend their classes lecturing because the Internet is down. Faculty and staff can report technological difficulties online, but tech support is frequently delayed.

At a Nov. 13 Faculty Senate meeting, Byron Nash, chief information officer and associate vice president of Technology Services, said the college’s information technology systems are 7–15 years behind, and the wireless network is two generations behind modern times, as reported Nov. 16 by The Chronicle. Nash also raised concerns about IT’s aging infrastructure. 

The college has approved plans for a new fiber ring that will double the network’s current capacity from 10–20 GB. Upgrades are underway and should be completed by the Fall 2016 Semester. 

There has been little communication between the college and students regarding updating the network. The implementation of a faster wireless network will certainly affect students, so informing them of the planned changes is essential to reassure students that their tuition goes toward reliable, secure, high-speed wireless Internet access.

Better Internet service is vital to academic success. The college has pushed for students, faculty and staff to use Moodle for syllabi, assignments, homework and grading. Columbia also offers dozens of online classes that should not be jeopardized because of faulty Internet connections. Every student may not have Internet access at home, so it is crucial the college offer a reliable wireless network on campus. 

Columbia is constantly adjusting and modernizing its curricula to adapt to technological advancements, and students are given access to cutting-edge equipment and software to prepare for their careers. However, this equipment and software is useless when it is supported by spotty Wi-Fi connections. The college’s wireless network has been an ongoing issue, and an upgrade is long overdue. Students have habitually resorted to using Wi-Fi in Starbucks and Panera Bread to get work done. Prioritizing and communicating efforts to update the college’s network would allow students to enjoy the advanced equipment and technologies that the college offers.