Internet bandwidth speeds for Missouri Western residence halls were doubled Wednesday, March 18, from 250 megabits per second (mbps) to 500 mbps.
To do so, the university is going to pay $5,250 per month. Western was paying $3,025 for the 250 mbps contract.
The increase was proposed by Fred Nesslage, manager of Information Technology Services, after he had noticed a serious problem with past internet speeds.
“Between about 7 p.m. and 1 a.m., resident hall internet connection is maxed out,” Nesslage said.
Which is not a surprise, considering that the university has expected all of the students living on campus to share 250 mbps of internet bandwidth.
For those who understand what bandwidth is, this number seems surprisingly low. For those who are more technologically challenged, the data requires a bit of explanation.
First off, internet speeds are not a perfect science. The rate of 250 mbps not only assumes a perfect world, where not only does a customer receive the exact internet speeds that a company quotes it with, but also that our hardware can transfer speeds that quickly.
For the sake of making a point, we will do some quick calculations with 250 mbps.
If 50 residents were all using the internet, in a perfect world, each student would only get about 5 mbps. Bandwidth testing company Ookla explains that the average internet speed for Missouri residents is 40.7 mbps.
But, speed tests from Vaselakos Hall show bandwidth speeds ranging from 7 mbps to .3 mbps, with the average speeds hovering at 2 mbps.
To put that into perspective, the Federal Communication Commission considers 4 mbps the speed “generally required for using today’s video-rich broadband applications and services, while retaining sufficient capacity for basic web browsing and e-mail.”
After receiving multiple student complaints, Nathan Roberts, director of residential life, took action to resolve these concerns.
“I suggested that the VP for Finance increase capacity to 500 mbps so that we had a buffer during high usage times,” Roberts said.
With help from Nesslage, Roberts made a formal proposal to increase the speeds.
The Vice President for Financial Planning and Administration Dr. Cale Fessler agreed with the concerns of Nesslage and Roberts and moved to increase the speeds.
But the increase was improved for more than just better Netflix stream and Xbox playing.
“Our students on campus do a significant amount of their research, studying and writing with WiFi connected devices,” Roberts said. “Enabling an update that speeds up connections is not only convenient, but vital to the academic success of our students on campus.”
The internet provider for residential housing, Suddenlink, was happy to help the university with the bandwidth update.
“We recognize the need for increased speeds and for students to have access to fast online services anywhere on campus,” Suddenlink General Manager Lee Ann Smiley said. “Recognizing those needs, we’ve made the investments required to allow the school to double its on-campus Internet speeds to help students complete their work, stay in touch with friends and family and easily access entertainment options. We’re very happy to be bringing exciting new services to the Missouri Western family.”
The low internet bandwidth has not been the only problem inhibiting internet performance.
In the last semester, there have been five different issues affecting internet performance, aside from bandwidth; issues like faulty hardware and old router software.
One of these hardware failures had actually been limiting the 250 mbps bandwidth to nearly 140 mbps since last year. Another of these issues actually caused a complete internet outage the night of February 17 until early the next morning.
Mark Mabe, director of Information Technology Services, was most concerned with the department’s reaction to concerns such as these.
“It was pointed out to us that we had not appropriately communicated to the students what the problem was,” Mabe said.
Information Technology Services may have had trouble communicating these concerns to students, but Mabe is confident that the updates will please students.
“This project will allow us to enhance that service by relocating the wireless antennas and adding additional access points,” Mabe said. “The resulting impact will be stronger wireless signal strength, faster throughput speeds and additional user device connectivity.”
Although speeds have been increased, there is a negative result of the process for students.
Since the speed increase comes with a high price tag, those costs are to be put onto students in the form of a housing costs increase.
“Passing on cost of services upgrades to the students isn’t something anyone ever wants to do, but unfortunately the university operates on a razor-thin budget for utilities and services such as internet,” Roberts said.
Though the $5,250 per month increase is going to be transferred to residents, in the bigger picture, the cost increase should be minor.