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Students express frustration at campus wireless problems

On January 28, an AT&T network outage afflicted Netflix-ers, homework-ers and faculty alike for 16 hours as IT worked with the internet provider to get services back up.

Both the Virtual Private Network (VPN) and 500 megabits of data were made inaccessible due to the AT&T network being down. VPN services allow safe off-site access to the Mills servers, where work can be done in a secure environment. Since VPN services establish a connection on AT&T’s data, they were knocked off for the duration of the outage as well.

Students familiar with “Guest” wifi should know it runs off a different network than the “Mills-Wireless” connection. Comcast provides service for the “Guest” network, and AT&T provides service for the “Mills-Wireless” network. Guest only has a network speed of 100 megabytes (MB) per second, making it slower than Mills-Wireless, which has a network speed of 500 MB per second. These megabytes are composed of data which individual computers use when surfing the internet.

The problem, Babak Oskouian, Mills’ network engineer says, is that the VPN service is set up for the AT&T network to establish its connection with the server, so when AT&T went down, the VPN was no longer accessible.

Oskouian says the IT Help-Desk would have made VPN services available on the Comcast bandwidth, but they were hoping to have AT&T services available before then. It ended up taking a lot longer than they thought — about 16 hours — to get the AT&T service reconnected, so VPN services remained down.

Access to the internet seems to be an ongoing issue for some students on-campus, like second-year education and child development major Jaleesa Moss.

“I got the e-mail,” Moss said in regards to the email that IT Help-Desk sent out when services dropped. “I just didn’t know what that meant … and it didn’t matter anyway because it never works, so I wasn’t expecting it to work that day.”

First-year Alanna Williams echoed Moss’s concerns.

“The first week of school, everybody in my hall collectively called every day, like, ‘We can’t do our work. We can’t do our work!’ so they put a router in my room.”

In Mary Morse, Moss says she’s encountered a great deal more problems than in her former dorm hall, Warren Olney.

“At least it was bearable in the first-year dorms,” said Moss.

Oskouian says coverage often gets spotty in residence halls with all the oddly placed walls and old wiring. This year all of the routers were changed. Usually IT only replaces about 50-70 access points since they cost about a thousand dollars each, but Oskouian says since the recent overhaul, he’s received much less complaints.

Oskouian monitors the Mills College wifi himself and advises community members to contact him with connectivity issues.

“Instead of just getting frustrated and giving up, contact us, and I’ll fix it,” Oskouian  said.