Kevin Almasy

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 “” 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 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.

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

Students will continue to be provided 500 MB of bandwidth allocation fee per week during the fall semester, Information Technology Services announced in an email to all students Friday.

The decision comes after the University announced a plan to charge students for bandwidth allocations beginning in September. Under the plan, students who did not pay would automatically be placed on the University’s slower network. Less than a week after the plan was announced, Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, officially decided to put the new plan on hold because of negative feedback from students, faculty and staff members.

According to ITS, students will have the option to purchase additional bandwidth at a lower price than offered in previous semesters. When students go over the 500 MB per week allowance, they are moved to a slower network, unless they purchase more bandwidth.

During the 2013-2014 school year, students could purchase an additional 5 GB extra bandwidth per week for the semester for $4.25, according to UT spokesman Kevin Almasy.

“With what was originally rolled out for this year was a series of bandwidths and those prices are going to remain for those interested in purchasing additional, so now for $3 per semester you can get 10 GB,” Almasy said.

Students who have already subscribed and paid for the greater bandwidth allocation can receive a refund, if they want to return to the free 500 MB allocation.

According to Almasy, ITS is now deciding how to collect more feedback from the campus community to establish a service to provide high-speed Internet that meets the needs of students at an affordable price.

“I don’t know that there is a plan in place yet,” Almasy said. “I think it’s still under discussion to figure out how they want to move forward and make sure that they can find times and spaces and outlets to get the most feedback."

Computer Science sophomore Li Cai studies in the Gates Computer Science Complex. 

The University put a plan requiring students to purchase bandwidth subscriptions on hold Wednesday – less than a week after announcing it – because of negative feedback from students, faculty and staff members, according to a UT official.

Information Technology Services sent an email to students on July 30 announcing the current plan, where students are granted 500 MB for free, would be swapped for one where students are required to subscribe to data plans starting at $3 per semester for 10 GB each week in order to access the University's "first class" network. The new plan was scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 12.

Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, decided to put the policy on hold and collect more feedback before determining how to move forward, according to UT spokesperson Kevin Almasy.

“We just wanted to take some time to go back and talk to people and hear their concerns and kind of make sure we understand everyone’s standing in the community and figure out how we can best serve them,” Almasy said.

Almasy said concerns from the entire University community of students, faculty and staff members influenced the decision to halt the plans.

“I know that some may read in what they want, but we’re really just trying to figure out how we can just best deliver the capabilities offered by Internet to students in a way that’s affordable to them,” Almasy said.

According to Almasy, there is no timetable for when a final decision would be made about student access to bandwidth and the plan may be modified or move forward as originally planned. Almasy said the current system is outdated and in need of change.

“It’s just no longer serving the student population,” Almasy said. “It was a policy that was enacted in 2005 when most students were still using personal desktop computers — not laptops, and there was really no smartphone yet, in terms of an iPhone or phone with streaming capabilities on it.”

Despite concerns voiced by faculty and staff, the Shared Services Steering Committee will hear recommendations for the implementation of a Shared Services pilot program next week.

The Shared Services Plan is a list of recommendations intended to reduce the University’s spending through the elimination of 500 jobs and the centralization of several University services.

Kevin Hegarty, UT’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the centralization will focus on services in the areas of finance, information technology, human resources and procurement. Currently, these services are offered through individual units within varying colleges and departments. Hegarty, who is the chair of the steering committee, said the elimination of 500 jobs will be made primarily through natural attrition and retirement.

The committee created the pilot subcommittee after a series of campus-dialogue sessions, in which members of the steering committee sought to receive feedback from the UT community. University spokesman Kevin Almasy said the pilot program would take place in small-scale University departments on a volunteer basis to accommodate for some of the apprehension voiced in dialogue sessions. 

“As campus dialogue progressed, it became clear that there was an understanding for the rationale behind Shared Services, but that there was not a willingness for campus-wide implementation,” Almasy said.

At the last Faculty Council meeting in December, a pair of professors introduced a resolution calling for “the immediate suspension of pilot Shared Services implementation.” The resolution, which was co-authored by Dana Cloud, associate communication studies professor, and associate English professor Snehal Shingavi, supported the suspension of further implementation of the plan until more data is produced about the effects of the Shared Services Plan. The council did not vote on the resolution.

“Shared Services is expensive and risky,” Cloud said in an Opinion column she co-authored for The Daily Texan. “The proposal presents no measures of likely success or failure. We urgently need a transparent discussion of the plan’s risks.” 

Associate vice president Mary Knight, a member of the steering committee, said she understands the cautious attitude some individuals on campus have regarding Shared Services.

“There’s still skepticism, and we understand that,” Knight said. “I think it’s healthy for people to be skeptical because they’re going to provide good questions, and we’re going to have to figure out answers to those good questions.”

“I think one thing that some people are not thinking about is the plan that we are on, and that we’ve been on for the last handful of years,” Hegarty said. “We have been, as I’ve told the campus, not filling positions and not laying people off, but that is the future, if we do nothing. We will reach a point where we will have to start laying people off.”

Almasy said the committee intends to submit a final copy of their plan to President William Powers Jr. in February for him to review. 

Editors' note: This news story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Cloud co-authored an Opinion column, not an editorial, in the Texan. 

The UT Shared Services Plan will be revised to address public concerns collected at campus dialogue sessions regarding job security, funding and restructuring.

The plan is a list of recommendations intended to reduce University costs. The plan outlines the elimination of 500 jobs in order to combine services in the areas of finance, information technology, human resources and procurement into one centralized office. Currently, those services are provided through individual units within varying colleges and departments, according to Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer and chair of the Shared Services Steering Committee. University officials predict the bulk of these jobs will be eliminated through staff reductions — in what they hope will mostly be regular attrition — and retirements.

The steering committee hosted a variety of dialogue sessions throughout the past few months to present a detailed overview of the plan and address questions and concerns raised by those in attendance. The campus dialogue will end later this month, following two small scale meetings with IT governance groups, UT spokesman Kevin Almasy said.

Christopher Adams, manager of the department of geological sciences, said he thinks the time allotted for campus discussion should be extended to accommodate the drastic change outlined in the plan.

“We don’t always have a lot of time to just sit and ponder the consequence or the positive outcomes that could come with something like this,” Adams said.

The plan is projected to cost the University $160 million to $180 million over 10 years, with much of the cost going toward replacing the Departmental Financial Information Network, the current enterprise resource planning software. The plan estimates the University will save $120 million to $140 million in the same time frame, which includes the predicted cost and profit of the plan. 

Adams said he has concerns about how quickly the plan is being finalized. He said by attempting to transition to a new enterprise resource planning software while simultaneously implementing the plan, the administration could negatively impact work quality.

“I just feel like there are a lot of things changing all at once and it’s kind of like a roller coaster,” Adams said. 

Almasy said the committee has kept a detailed record of the questions raised during public meetings and those submitted via email.

“We have a listing of over 350 comments we’ve received,” Almasy said. “That is all kind of being reviewed and we’re trying to develop a set of major themes, which are the same kinds of questions and topics that were repeated over and over, and those are going to be reincorporated into a set of recommendations that will build off the draft plan and be delivered to the President [William Powers Jr.].”

The recommendations will likely be delivered to Powers in January and include a recommendation to conduct a pilot program of the plan before implementing it campus-wide, Almasy said.

“The steering committee has been charged with identifying a number of things: what would be tested in a pilot, what would determine the success or failure of a pilot and who would be the participants,” Almasy said.

Staff Council Chairwoman Erika Frahm said the council will continue to collaborate with the steering committee, even though the formal dialogue phase has ended.

“I have been incredibly proud of how the staff has approached this plan,” Frahm said. “All questions, concerns and suggestions raised by staff have been intelligent, respectful and professional. Communication with the shared services project team will be ongoing through all phases of this project.”