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The Blue & Gray Press | November 19, 2017

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Casting the Net Wider

BY KAT SAUNDERS

Mary Washington’s Internet service is often criticized by students as slow and unreliable.

Two major changes are set to change that.  The University is increasing its network bandwidth this fall.  The Department of Information Technologies has also finalized a contract with Apogee Inc. to outsource residential technology services starting spring semester.

Bandwidth is the available throughput of information on a given line.  Larger bandwidth allows more information to move faster through the main connection line, or pipeline.   Bandwidth is measure in megabits per second.

According to Khali Yazdi, chief information officer and vice president for Information Technology and Institutional Research, UMW academic and residential buildings currently share one pipeline with 45 mb/s of bandwidth.

Students currently have more problems with the internet in the evening and weekends because more students are online and overwhelming the pipeline, according to Carol Martin, senior project specialist in the deptarment of information technologies.
“Our current-state wide Internet services have become inadequate,” Martin said.

The new pipeline, currently being tested, will have 230 mb/s of shared bandwidth.

“We’re going to get an immediate improvement with the new bandwidth,” Yazdi said.

The pipeline will be tested again later this week.  If tests are successful, than the network will immediately switch over to the new pipeline.  Students can expect further information via e-mail.

“I know the students expected this increase and switchover before they got back,” Yazdi said.  “I think everyone tried their best to get that done, but we are a public institute and we have a bureaucratic system.”

Starting in January, students in resident halls will be provided with 3 personal megabits of bandwidth by Apogee Inc.

Apogee is a provider of campus internet services based in Texas, according to the company’s website.

Student cable services will also be provided by Apogee.  The University will have a full time technical assistant from the company on campus.

Students will have the option of buying up to 20 more megabits of personal bandwidth and services like premium cable.  The cost of standard services, including the planned extra bandwidth, is not set to increase or affect student tuition.

“The services have become much like a commodity you can buy now, so you as a student can customize that,” said Yazdi.  “It gives us the opportunity for students to select what they want.”

The contract with Apogee is set for five years, with five one-year renewals.  The budget for the new service is $500,000.  Apogee was the lowest of four bidders for the contract.

The University decided to outsource residential technology services due to improvements in available services and budget restrictions.
“We couldn’t keep up with the bandwidth demands of students so it would cost us a lot of money on a continuing basis updating and managing our own system,” Martin said.

Apogee will update internet services and equipment for residential halls and provide a 24 hour a day hotline.

The Department of Information Technologies will still handle campus wide internet and computer services.  Yazdi and Martin both emphasized that an outside company is more adapt at handling students internet needs, which often include things like gaming and file sharing that require more bandwidth.

“The bottom line is we want to make our students on campus have access to the same level of services they could get if they were living elsewhere,” Yadzi said.

The switchover is expected to vastly increase students’ internet experience at UMW.

“A lot of students are not that thrilled with our present internet service, to put it lightly,” said junior Alyssa Berns, a residental technology assistant for the Department of Information Technologies.

Berns estimates that about half of the complaints she receives are internet related.

“I’m really glad they’re moving to improve it,” she added.

More information and guidelines on using Apogee’s services will be sent to students next semester and is available at apogeenet.net.