Students enjoy increased Internet speed and bandwidth

Caitlin Williamson

Information Technology Services increased the amount of Internet bandwidth available to Lawrence students, faculty, and staff as of June 30. The increase in bandwidth was in response to the increasing demand for the services ITS provides.”‘Internet bandwidth’ refers to the information-carrying capacity of our connection to the Internet,” according to the ITS Web site.

The increase only affected the connection to the public Internet, as opposed to within the Lawrence network. For example, searching on Google, watching YouTube, and using Facebook should work faster as a result of this change.

“What’s happening is the entire campus is sharing our connection to the Internet, so there’s a limit on how quickly you can connect based on how many people use it,” said Steve Hirby, chief information officer for ITS.

In addition to increasing the amount of bandwidth, ITS implemented a bandwidth-management system that monitors how bandwidth is being used and tries to distribute it fairly.

The system limits the amount of bandwidth any single user can consume, as Lawrence has a fixed amount to use. Last year, the Internet connection speed was 20 megabytes per second. This year the speed was increased to 45 megabytes per second.

“During the daytime on weekdays, we give priority to things that occur in classrooms, faculty offices or administrative offices,” Hirby said. “Then on weekends, those priorities are lowered, and general use is more possible. Because we had more bandwidth available, we upped the limits on how much individual users can consume, and we offered a lot more bandwidth to gaming, because they really notice if the network is slow or unresponsive.”

The mission of ITS is to “provide the campus community with reliable, up-to-date computing and network services in support of teaching, learning, living, and administrative activities at Lawrence.”

The increase in Internet bandwidth and downloading speed is one of several projects ITS has planned for this year. According to Hirby, students last year expressed concerns about the responsiveness of the Internet and downloading speed.

“The primary purpose of our connection to the Internet is to support teaching, learning, and research,” Hirby said. “But we also have 1,400 students who live on campus, and they use the Internet not only for academic purposes but also for recreation and communication.”

For Steve Marquis, president of the Computer Science Club, the increase in bandwidth will be helpful for the club’s activities. “The increase in bandwidth does help us when we’re fixing people’s computers and downloading software,” Marquis said. “But the main problem I see with Lawrence’s network and speeds is our personal network.”

The Computer Science Club assists ITS in repairing computers, hosts LAN parties — a type of gaming party — and this year, they are introducing “9 p.m. sessions” that will offer information about computer-related topics.

For the 2007-2008 fiscal year, ITS was allotted $550,000 from the Lawrence Board of Trustees for information-technology capital projects.

In addition to increasing the bandwidth, ITS also increased wireless access on campus to include residence hall lounges. They are also working to expand wireless in all of the academic buildings.

Another upcoming ITS focus is a print-management system, which would require signing into Lawrence printers with a username and password in order to pick papers up. This would ensure that people actually want and pick up what they are printing. This service will be coming within the next couple of weeks.

“We find that a lot of print jobs get printed and then left,” Hirby said. “That means that there’s paper being wasted and toner being wasted.” The increase in bandwidth is just one of several projects ITS has in mind for this year. Feedback and suggestions to ITS will ensure that Lawrence will have better Internet service in the future.

“We are interested in hearing [input from students] because we want to be responsive and forward-looking,” Hirby said.