By Randell Leak
During the fall semester, students and the faculty noticed something wrong with the Internet. Students, faculty, and staff couldn’t rely on it day to day, to complete their work. The problem was so bad that classes had to be canceled. “It began roughly around the beginning of September probably the two weeks of September,” Bernie Castro, Executive Director of Information Technology. “We started to notice a spike in the amount of Internet bandwidth being used. It’s a combination of the high volume students are using these days, and also we have more classroom technology that’s using websites, courses, blackboard and cloud. We also have other software that is accessible through websites. But, I also see students, as I walk around using Facebook, Youtube, Netflix. We’re talking about streaming, that’s happening across our networks. So, the technology these days are all accessible through your mobile device or even if a student have a laptop around campus. As I walk around campus, that has been many of the causes due to Internet interference and inconcisive high volume internet traffic.”
“We are under the highest pressure,” Castro said. “I mean the job of being an IT person is a 24/7 365 days a year job. In my position, it’s hard to be on vacation, when I’m on vacation I stay connected with my cellphone, when I’m home I have to stay in tune. I’m always checking my email. We are a customer service department. So, if we are not providing this technology or the tools to improve student success or faculty success and the way they facilitate courses, then it is a concern if those things don’t happen. We have worked through it and I’m very lucky to have a team I can help get them focus, I’ll take the blunt of the complaints and I make sure that the troubleshooting is being done, but I am handling all of the communications and also all of the tomatoes that are thrown at you so to speak.”
Many people want to know how Bernie and his team are fixing this situation. “There are two circuits that come into the college, those fiber optics circuits have been laid underground. We had fiber optics, but these are two brand new circuits that can hold more bandwidth. So, basically its future proofing. If we need more bandwidth we can keep adding to the number of band width.
When asked how long it be for the network to be fully operational Castro stated, “Hopefully before the end of March we will see full increase of speed that we have purchased.” Castro went on to talk about the semester before the network issues. “To me the most shocking thing is the semester before we had zero issues, but when September came we had lots of connection activity slow down. So I’m still trying to piece that puzzle together. Are the students from the spring semester different from the new fall semester? Probably yes, but again we have the infrastructure in place if want to keep going up in faster speeds, larger bandwidth, we can do that. The challenge is the more speed we give the campus, the more speed people are going to want to use. So we have to watch out for that. Everyone wants to download and watch movies faster but we have to find that balance. We’ll see and our focus is student success so the bandwidth inside classroom is more important than what’s outside in a hallway. We have to be careful and find that balance. If students are able to login and students are able to do their work, then that’s a job well done. In this industry, in my position, its a constant guessing game.
The improvements made from last semester shows how Castro and his team are helping solve the problem. Let’s all hope the network will be fully operated at the end of March.