William Green

More than 50 percent of students, faculty and staff on campus have switched to UT’s new Wi-Fi network, according to an Information Technology Service representative. 

William Green, director of networking and telecommunications, said in spite of some minor issues with the new network, the ITS Help Desk has not been notified of any widespread problems associated with the changing Wi-Fi. 

UT introduced the new Wi-Fi network “utexas” in late March in an effort to modernize the network’s security capabilities. The new network has received mixed reviews from students, and some said they have struggled to get a steady Wi-Fi connection.

Geography junior Alex Van Der Colff, who said he has experienced connection problems, said he assumed the spotty service was the result of the transition. 

“I’ve had a problem with it connecting sometimes,” Van Der Colff said. “It maybe was a little bit slower, but I figured just because it was new.”

Mathematics junior Travis Powell said his establishing connection to the new Wi-Fi was easy and hasn’t resulted in any problems.

“I haven’t really had any trouble with it,” Powell said. “It just seems like normal on-campus Wi-Fi.”

Dounya Alami-Nassif, Middle Eastern studies graduate student, said she often has to try multiple times to get connected to the Wi-Fi.

“For some reason, it doesn’t let me connect automatically sometimes,” Alami-Nassif said. “It’ll just show limited [connection] occasionally, but then, if I just disconnect and then reconnect real quick, it works out fine.”

Aerospace engineering senior Amritpreet Kang said connecting to the new Wi-Fi was easy and that connection has been solid.

“I haven’t seen any problems with the new Wi-Fi,” Kang said. “I’ve been using it on my phone; it’s really easy to connect to it. I just followed the directions on the website.”

Green said if students are having difficulty maintaining a connection on the new network, they should make sure to delete the old Wi-Fi configuration, “restricted.utexas.edu,” because having both confuses the device and causes the connection to bounce back and forth between the two networks.

“Restricted.utexas.edu,” will no longer be available for use beginning May 26.

Currently, ITS is nearly two-thirds of the way done with a project that will update half of the wireless access points around campus, Green said. Campus members with up-to-date devices could see Internet speeds double when the project is complete.

Photo Credit: Anna Pedersen | Comics Artist

The UT campus will shift over to a new Wi-Fi network over the next two months as part of an attempt to keep the network in line with modern security standards.

UT spokesman Kevin Almasy said the “restricted.utexas.edu” Wi-Fi network that the UT community uses will be deactivated May 26. The replacement network, “utexas,” became available for students, faculty and staff Monday. Technology staffers are working to transfer students, faculty and staff before the old network is shut down. 

“Moving is easy. Like joining any network, users will just have to go to their wireless preferences, forget or delete restricted.utexas.edu and then select utexas and log in using their UT EID,” Almasy said. 

There are more than 180,000 devices connected to the current Wi-Fi network, Almasy said. 

William Green, director of networking and telecommunications, said the change in the Wi-Fi network came about as a result of efforts to heighten network security.

“It’s like when your bank sends you a new credit card with a different number for security reasons,” Green said. “You have to change the credit card number with all the things tied to it, like your mobile phone bill, before the expiration date on the old card.”

 Green said when any device connects to the University’s Wi-Fi, it checks the credentials of the network to be sure the network won’t damage the device. The credentials, called digital certificates, are issued by companies and expire regularly, requiring the certificates to be renewed. 

“The company won’t renew the certificate again because the certificate they issued to the University back in 2006 is now considered weak,” Green said. “So the company is issuing a different certificate, and all the devices have to be configured to recognize that new certificate as the University’s Wi-Fi network.” 

Green said the University was required to act quickly because devices would recognize the certificates as expired and not allow a connection. 

“If the University doesn’t do anything, then after the expiration date, as devices are deciding whether to trust and connect to the University’s Wi-Fi, they’ll notice the certificate has expired, and most will refuse to connect,” Green said. “The device is trying to protect its user.”

The new network won’t mean any increase in speed, according to Green. However, the University is currently working to upgrade half of the wireless access points throughout campus.

Finance and economics sophomore Mark Albin said he needs the Wi-Fi to complete homework, participate in research and stay connected with those around him.

“One of my classes requires that I have Wi-Fi to connect to specialized statistics software,” Albin said. “Without a consistent Internet connection, the classroom would not work.”

Green said the process of switching to a different Wi-Fi network will occur again in the future when the new certificates expire.

William Green, Information Technology Services director of networking and telecommunications, speaks at a Student Government meeting Tuesday and presents an ITS plan to double the default bandwidth allocation offered to students at no extra charge.

Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

Beginning in January, the University will double the amount of time students can watch Netflix on campus or study online.

The University is increasing its default bandwidth allocation, which all off-campus students are given as a part of their tuition fees, from 500 MB per week to 1 GB per week beginning Jan. 12. That is the equivalent of 600 web page views or three hours of Netflix — double the current amount — according to a University Information Technology Services network report. Students will still have the option to purchase additional bandwidth.

According to ITS, the new bandwidth policy will cost the University $215,000 a year. This increase follows an attempted policy change in August when ITS unsuccessfully tried to remove the default bandwidth allocation, which required students to purchase a bandwidth tier. 

“In the end, the community came back and said they still desired to have some default allocation for academic use,” said William Green, ITS director of networking and telecommunications. 

Bandwidth amounts for TAs will also be extended to a base of 50 GB, or 31,000 web-page visits per week. Other than doubling the default bandwidth amount, next semester the bandwidth system will be the same. Students will have the option to buy 10 GB, 50 GB, 200 GB or 500 GB of additional bandwidth for  $3, $5, $6 or $8, respectively. 

“I don’t think more Internet usage connection is ever a bad thing,” psychology sophomore Katy Giuffre said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal to have to pay for it, but I’m not going to complain if they want to give me more bandwidth for free.”

Green said students progressively needed more gigabytes of bandwidth for their academics, and that led to the switch to 1 GB of bandwidth. Green estimates about 80 percent of student Internet use is non-academic. Giuffre said she is usually studying online when she is on campus.

“It’s probably actually more academic,” Giuffre said. “Sometimes I’m on Pinterest or shopping if I have a little downtime. If I’m using my Internet connection on campus, it’s usually to study or submit papers or to find stuff on campus.” 

According to the University ITS network report, at 50 percent academic use, about 85 percent of students do not exceed their bandwidth allocation. When increased to 1 GB, almost 95 percent of students are estimated to not exceed their bandwidth use. 

The Internet will still be slowed if the 1 GB is exceeded, but Green said students can easily use Canvas and other academic sites.

“We think most basic needs are made when they exceed that bandwidth,” Green said. “Everyone has the option to purchase more bandwidth.”   

Bandwidth use is not free and unlimited because of cost and liability concerns, Green said. Since bandwidth is a service funded by student fees and tuition through the central budget, Green said if use were free past 1 GB, then students would be paying for non-academic Internet use.

“Students consume different amounts of bandwidth depending on what they are doing,” Green said. “Not saying it’s right or it’s wrong — it may or may not be related to the mission. But do you really want students to be subsidizing somebody watching Netflix?” 

Having students pay for bandwidth also protects the University from being held responsible for any illegal activity students do on campus since the students are paying for additional, non-academic bandwidth to accompany their 1 GB of academic bandwidth. 

“They may just be watching calculus videos, but they may go hack something, or they may be distributing material that is copyrighted and owned by someone else,” Green said. 

Also, allowing students to buy their own bandwidth prevents the need for the University to block non-academic websites.

“We as the University can let you do whatever you want to do, legally,” Green said.

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

Use of UT’s fastest wireless system will require students to purchase of a bandwidth subscription plan beginning in the fall semester, the University announced in an email to students Wednesday.

In past semesters, students had access on UT’s “first class” network on a data-limited, 500 MB basis, but the new policy will require all users to pay. Those who don’t pay the fee to Information Technology Services will be placed on the slower "second class," network service. Since the majority of students already purchase bandwidth beyond the basic allocation, the change has been a long time coming, according to William Green, UT’s director of networking and telecommunications.

“The current 500 MB allocation and strategy is from 2005, and the goal was to move toward all bandwidth purchased by students,” Green said.

Students will be able to purchase plans starting at the prorated price of $3 per academic semester for a data allocation of 10 GB per week.

High speed Internet access on campus is necessary to the fulfillment of UT’s mission, and thus 95 percent of the cost associated with providing networking services on campus is drawn from sources other than the new fees, Green said.

“That last five percent, through this charge, is freedom to choose: academics, research, Netflix,” Green said.

A great deal of student Internet use is not tied to academics, and the installment of required network fees is not out of the question, Green said.

The plan exempts online University services, including Quest, Blackboard and Canvas, from the data allocation policies, and the University always places these on the “first-tier” network, even if a student is out of bandwidth.

Some students, such as economics sophomore Elizabeth Vigant, support the change. Vigant said the fee is a practical way to improve the efficiency of on-campus internet andmost students living off campus already have internet access at home. The fee should not view the change as an impedance to public Internet access, Vigant said.

Chemistry junior Munaum Qureshi, who said he has purchased additional bandwidth each semester he has been enrolled at UT, said the University’s fee is significantly less than the amount he pays in his off-campus housing.

“Compared to the $60 a month fee for Internet in my apartment, $3 for a semester is nothing,” Qureshi said.

Not all students support ITS’s new fee system. David Lessenberry, international relations and global studies junior, said he questions whether rates will increase in future semesters.

“What concerns me is that this is just the beginning," Lessenberry said. "What will future rate increases look like?”

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

At the most recent meeting of the Graduate Student Assembly, on March 5, representatives of UT’s Information Technology Services presented a proposal to charge students for wireless Internet access on campus. 

The new “Student Bandwidth Strategy” would replace UT’s current system, which allows students to use up to 500 megabytes of bandwidth per week for free, with one in which students would no longer receive minimum allocations and would have to pay $4.25 a semester for 5 gigabytes of data. The University has cited concerns about funding and the need to protect itself from liability in criminal cases as reasons for the plan’s necessity. 

ITS’ proposal should be more sensitive to the needs of students who operate on limited budgets and students who use campus Internet infrequently and irregularly, such as those students who have a limited number of classes on campus or whose classes do not require internet access. 

ITS governance suggests that the proposal, which will legally make it easier for the University to have the appearance of being an Internet service provider, is a necessary measure to raise funds for the growing technological needs of our campus. William Green, ITS’ director of networking and telecommunications, said non-residential student wireless usage, which accounts for 48 percent of all bandwidth used on the UT campus at peak hours, has been increasing in bandwidth use by 27 percent per year.

Admittedly, the new policy will help protect the University against liability issues that occur when a student does something illegal using Internet provided to them by the University. 

“Freedom is a key reason for this approach,” Green said. “In aggregate network samples and discussions with students, the majority of wireless bandwidth consumption does not appear to be related to education or research activities. Charging for bandwidth, acting as an Internet Service Provider, ensures students can continue to make their own choices without restrictions to sites/applications or slowdowns as some universities have implemented — no perceived conflict for non-mission related activities utilizing University funds. Acting as an ISP for all bandwidth consumed solidifies ‘Safe Harbor’ protections for the University.” 

Despite the proposed strategy’s advantages in terms of liability, some students still have concerns with the potential plan. And at the recent GSA meeting, some students were very vocal about their disagreement.

“[At the March 5 meeting], one graduate student, in particular, seemed surprised that UT had chosen this route especially since the vast majority of our peer institutions have not adopted a similar policy,” GSAPresident-elect David Villarreal said.  

Villarreal also expressed concern for students in financial need.

“While the fee of $5 per semester may seem nominal, it’s only one additional charge that combines with other little fees that can quickly add up for students on limited budgets or financial aid, and who’s to say the charge will still be $5 in five or 10 years?" Villarreal said.

Under the current wireless system, in addition to the free 500 megabytes, UT also allows users to download or upload an unlimited amount of information to and from University websites such as Blackboard. This is especially valuable for students who use small amounts of data specifically for class. While Green may have found that the majority of total student bandwidth consumption is non-school related, given the limits on the free bandwidth available to students, it is doubtful that the people participating in these high-bandwidth activities, such as watching Netflix, are using the free tier to begin with. Unfortunately, the University has no data on the type of bandwidth students use strictly for school-related activities, so this hunch will have to stay unconfirmed. But if it is true, then under the proposal, the first group of students — those who use only use small amounts of bandwidth and only for school-related purposes — will be stuck with yet another unnecessary fee. 

It is important to note that the Student Bandwidth Strategy is just a proposal and no official action has been taken. However, before rushing into a decision that may be detrimental to students in financial need or unfair to students who use Internet infrequently, ITS should consider alternatives modeled after other major universities. ITS should also be cautious about establishing yet another fee which, like so many other student expenses at UT, may be ever increasing in years to come.

Almeda is a marketing senior from Seattle. 

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

A new proposal may require all students to purchase bandwidth each semester to receive Internet access.

William Green, director of networking and telecommunications at Information Technology Services, said over time the amount of bandwidth allocated to students is not sufficient. As of fall 2013, 50 percent of students have purchased additional bandwidth.

“We are watching those percentages grow and are afraid people are suffering needlessly when they get put on the second-class network because they don’t realize it’s not enough bandwidth to do their daily activities,” Green said.

Currently, students are allowed 500 MB of external bandwidth they may use each week at no cost — amounting to less than an hour of medium data usage on Netflix — after which students are moved to a slower, second-class network. Students have the option of purchasing additional bandwidth from 5 GB to 150 GB. In the fall 2013 rate card, 5 GB per week costs $4.25 per semester. 

The proposal would eliminate the 500 MB of Internet, and require students to purchase bandwidth each semester. Green said the proposal was created as a way to avoid potential liabilities that could come from providing free Internet. 

“Depending on what the student does, the University could have some liability for what happens,” Green said. “If someone does something that is illegal, the University could be liable or could be brought into various cases.” 

According to Green, the proposal would also create the funding needed to provide Internet access. Last year, students, faculty and staff generated $132,000 in bandwidth revenue, while the University spent over $750,000 in bandwidth.

Green said ITS generally receives its funding from the University to accomplish the services set out by IT governance. Bandwidth is purchased through four sources of income — ITS operations, residential network operations, tiered public network access and research network operations.

“We are not quite meeting what we’re spending, but as we get people buying into it they’ll start to make up that money,” Green said. “It also means as people consume more we have the funds to buy more.”

As of last spring, University computers make up 52 percent of the bandwidth being used on campus, while wireless, nonresident students are using 48 percent of bandwidth. Because additional bandwidth charges are included in their tuition fees, students living on campus are excluded from usage statistics. 

Green said at its busiest time, Tuesdays at 2 p.m., the University is using an average of 5 GB per second.

Undeclared freshman Madeline Barham said she does not pay for additional bandwidth and has not gone over the allocated 500 MB.

“I already pay enough money to go to UT, but, if it were only five dollars a semester, I would think that would be reasonable,” Barham said.

Government and history senior Mauricio Garcia said the allocated bandwidth was not a sufficient amount for him, and he purchased 25 GB of bandwidth this semester for $7.25. Garcia said he thinks the rates for last semester were a reasonable price for bandwidth.

“I like the idea because by the third day of class I’m all over my bandwidth,” Garcia said. “If the University upgrades this, I think that would be perfect because the minimum bandwidth runs out so easily.”

Green said ITS is reviewing rates for next fall and students may see a decrease in the cost of bandwidth as consumption increases. Green said he hopes for a decision to be made in April.