In a recent post on the University’s Facebook page, a WIU student raised concerns about bandwidth and Internet speed within the residence halls. Western Illinois University is certainly not alone among higher education institutions in this struggle to “tame the bandwidth monster.” There is an interesting article written on the bandwidth topic by Keith Fowlkes, a CIO at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky (see http://www.informationweek.com/education/campus-infrastructure/can-colleges-tame-the-bandwidth-monster/240150686).
Access to the Internet is needed to support academic scholarship and research. Students, along with faculty and staff, consume bandwidth on the University’s main network for these purposes.
The residential network (ResNet) used by students living in the residence halls currently provides 265 Mbps bandwidth. When students simultaneously access the Internet, bandwidth usage is maxed out and remains that way, typically until the early morning hours. Streaming videos, downloading music, using file-sharing software, and gaming does tax the speed of ResNet further. As Mr. Fowlkes points out in the above referenced article, this is “compounded by cable and satellite content providers piling into the mix with their mobile apps.” In addition, users are introducing a myriad of new devices to the networks in increasing numbers, including tablets and smart phones.
During Summer 2013, University Technology (uTech) entered into discussions with WIU’s internet service providers (ISPs) to address bandwidth needs. The University is negotiating to purchase an increase of bandwidth on ResNet to bring it up to 1Gps. We recognized the need to increase bandwidth to 3Gps over the next few years and then to 10Gps after that. Expanding bandwidth beyond 1Gps, however, is expensive. Not only is the cost of the additional bandwidth involved, but the network firewalls and packet shapers will also need to be replaced.
It should be noted that uTech’s Strategic Plan draft, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees in October, proposes increasing the bandwidth. The proposed IT governance process that will be implemented this semester will prioritize IT projects, including bandwidth. Students from both campuses will have representation in this process. More about the IT Strategic Plan and IT governance can be found at wiu.edu/university_technology/other_info/it_strategic_plan_and_governance.
Will the networks ever provide enough bandwidth to satisfy the rapidly growing demand for it? Maybe not … but there is hope in the future given some of new emerging technologies. Until then, we ask for your patience as the University continues to add bandwidth in affordable chunks. We encourage everyone who is experiencing unusually slow network performance to contact the uTech Support Center at (309) 298-2704 or enter a Service Request by going to http://my.wiu.edu and clicking on the SysAid icon.