by ELIANA RAMIREZ
We have all come to rely on our laptops, cellphones and tablets for everyday work, studies and general communication. Because of that, a reliable wireless network is a crucial service that all universities should provide. Without it, students, faculty and administrators would find it difficult to complete their daily technology-reliant tasks.
This is not the case at UMW, though, because the wireless networks at UMW do not work everywhere on campus. Whether I’m in my dorm, walking through the tunnel by Woodard, studying at the HCC or eating at the UC, I can’t always rely on cellular service at times when I need Wi-Fi.
The main wireless network for Mary Washington is aptly called “UMW.” This network provides students, faculty, staff and administration access to the university’s main online resources as well as to the internet while they are in the university’s academic and administrative buildings.
For students living on campus, their room and board fees pay for ResNet, a separate residential Wi-Fi network. For this, UMW works with the private company Apogee to provide an internet package to students.
When I first attended UMW, I noticed that connecting to the Wi-Fi using the ResNet portal was extremely frustrating. Sometimes it would take what seemed like hours for my devices to connect, and when they finally did, the network would disconnect again.
My experience is not unique, though, for many students on campus have experienced Wi-Fi problems at one time or another.
“I remember struggling a lot connecting to the Wi-Fi the first day back to class coming back from summer vacation. It took about 3 days to finally connect to the wifi. I thought I would eventually figure it out myself, and I guess I was really adamant about getting outside help,” said Sasha Choudhry, a sophomore political science major.
According to Hall Cheshire, the chief information officer at UMW, “Apogee and UMW IT technicians cannot resolve a wifi problem if they are not aware of it.” However, with the number of problems that students face with their connection, it seems like the system as a whole should be considered rather than having to fix issues on an individual basis.
Some students like Jestinus Jackson, a junior Spanish major, frequently rely on cellular data and connect their computers to their phone’s hotspot to access the internet around campus.
“I have to rely on switching between my hotspot and sometimes use the Wi-Fi which is a hit or miss because all the buildings have Apogee,” said Jackson.
For Kiera Croswait, a sophomore English major, Apogee doesn’t work in her dorm.
“I can only use my computer in certain areas of my apartment, and I have to connect it to the UMW Wi-Fi—not Apogee— if it works,” said Croswait. “I can’t even use the Wi-Fi on my phone; I have to disconnect from the Wi-Fi in order to use my phone, so it’s been rough.”
“As of now, I only have [Apogee Legacy Wi-Fi] in the vicinity of my residence hall,” said Choudhry. “Anywhere else I have to use data.”
One of the worst times to experience connectivity issues is when registering for classes, though the issue continues to affect other uses of technology, too.
“Some issues I’ve had include having slow internet speed, especially during the day of registration and losing connection while on FaceTime and Zoom,” said Choudhry.
I have also experienced losing Wi-Fi connection during online registration. Right when I clicked the button to add my selected classes to the summary, the Wi-Fi signal was lost, and I was left waiting while the classes showed up as pending. The system kicked me out, so I had to log back into Banner and find all my classes again, hoping no one had taken my spot.
Luckily, all the times I have tried to register for classes and this has happened I was still able to complete the registration process. However, not having a reliable Wi-Fi connection on campus where accessing the internet is necessary for our work is far from ideal.
Students experience varying Wi-Fi connectivity at different spots around campus.
“Certain areas are better than others when it comes to wifi usage,” said Jackson. “For me it’s spotty at the UC and then also going over towards Jepson and the HCC.”
UMW’s Information Technology Department, which is staffed by 24 people, is located on the bottom floor of the Hurley Convergence Center. They are ready to help the UMW community with any IT issues, including problems that arise with Wi-Fi connectivity. However, students have to report their issues because where they experience the connectivity issue will dictate who they need to contact.
If students live in residence halls, they can reach out to Apogee directly, according to Cheshire.
“If Apogee Support is unable to resolve an issue over the phone, they will generate a work order for an onsite Apogee Field Service Representative to meet with the student and address the problem,” said Cheshire.
Meanwhile, Wi-Fi issues in administrative or academic buildings should be reported to the UMW IT Desk due to the different networks in these buildings versus campus residences.
Cheshire said that Wi-Fi access points are placed in administrative, academic and residence buildings, and the overall system is updated every so often. The last update occurred in 2017, and the next update is scheduled for the spring of 2024. The upcoming update will include enhancements such as communication between a student’s devices on the same network, a guest network in the residence halls and personal Wi-Fi passwords for added security.
Hopefully, the new updates will resolve some of the problems that many students, including me, are having with the wireless network. It is a pain not being able to connect to the Wi-Fi because, like many other students, most of my work is online and I need a reliable internet connection to be able to complete my work.