By Michael Robinson
All Alex Regele wanted to do was use the Internet.
Due to the online requirements of an upcoming assignment, it should have been easy enough for the second-year recreation and leisure studies student to connect to the college’s wireless network from the library.
But during the week of Jan. 6, Regele was one of thousands of returning staff, students and faculty who returned to the college after the holidays only to discover its network in a state of virtual limbo.
“It’s pretty bad when you have to switch from trying to use the college’s Wi-Fi to using the 3G data on your phone as a personal hotspot,” he said.
The Woodroffe campus ushered in the new year with a slew of technological relapses, causing intermittent issues in the form of slow bandwidth speeds and Wi-Fi connection drops.
With symptoms reminiscent of the extended outage during the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester, Algonquin’s Information Technology Service (ITS) scrambled to overcome the outage.
After several days of performance issues, ITS Communications sent a priority email to staff and students on Jan. 10 informing them that although the problem was isolated to the college’s Woodroffe campus, it was widespread across all of the campus’s buildings.
David Laigon, manager of ITS’ Infrastructure Services, had been tasked with investigating what may be causing the issues. But with 10,000 people accessing the college’s network at any given time, identifying and isolating the issue was no easy task.
In order to run tests designed to identify potential issues, Laigon diverted the college’s Internet traffic from two incoming lines to one through the use of a Linkproof. The device operates in a way similar to that of a police officer directing traffic at an intersection.
“This allowed us to definitively prove it wasn’t the college’s issue, doing something called packet captures and trace routes,” Laigon said, referring to the processes of intercepting, logging and analyzing the data-in-motion passing over the college’s network.
The results concluded the issue was with Rogers, the college’s Internet service provider.
By then, service interruptions, such as slow Internet speeds and delayed credit and debit card processing at the Marketplace Food Court, had already swept throughout the Woodroffe campus.
Mary Baxter, acting general manager of Food Services, was unable to confirm how many students encountered difficulty using plastic to purchase their meals, only admitting that “a few incidents” had occurred.
However, Ljilja Trivuncic, a cashier at the Marketplace Food Court, confirmed the credit and debit card processing during the first week back was full of delays. According to her, the time it took to process credit and debit card transactions had increased significantly.
“What normally took three to four seconds was taking 12 to 14,” Trivuncic said. Yet, she admits the current speed is much faster now with average speeds between four to six seconds.
However, the Algonquin’s Students’ Association (SA) denied that the Woodroffe campus has been experiencing wireless woes.
“As you are aware, network connectivity is not a problem this semester,” said Krisha Stanton, vice-president of the SA, in an email to the Times.
”The SA has not received any feedback of issues for ITS.”
Rod Martin, ITS’ senior manager of Service Delivery and Infrastructure Services, said in the meantime the department is also in the process of increasing the college’s bandwidth.
“We’ve added around 60 per cent more Internet capability to the Woodroffe campus location since before Christmas until now,” he said.
According to Martin, most users should experience a “phenomenal improvement” in the way the Internet works for them. One location in particular is the college’s residence, where heavy network usage is usually higher in the evenings.
“We were over at the residence last Friday night and the place seemed to be hopping but no one seemed to be, or couldn’t do any downloading,” said Laigon.”They aren’t even using all the bandwidth available right now.”
But for at least one student living in residence, the ITS claim is hard to believe.
“The residence Internet is very unreliable and it can tend to be very frustrating, especially when you have a deadline on a project or assignment,” said Jannik Hobson, a first-year student in the mobile application design and development program.
“This is coming from a student who has all online classes and depends 100 per cent on the Wi-Fi working to be able to work on them.”
Now back in the library, Regele was finally connected to the Internet; a feat that seemed impossible a few weeks ago.
“It was during the first week back after Christmas break and I was in class using an online team collaborative software called Padlet,” Regele said. “Without the Internet working, I was forced to wait a half-hour for the wireless to kick-in.
“How do you do your work at school when the Internet isn’t working?”