Two different providers will deliver internet services to UTD’s residential areas.
Canyon Creek Heights and University Commons will continue to provide CometNet/TemocNet, but University Village will shift back to Time Warner, now known as Spectrum. This also means that routers, wireless printers and TV streaming devices are no longer banned in UV as it is in UC and the new housing, at least for the time being.
In July, the access points installed in the university apartments malfunctioned due to thunderstorm activity. In order to provide stability to students, the Office of Information Technology and university housing contacted Spectrum to provide internet and cable services until the university feels it can provide its own internet seamlessly. The associate vice president of the OIT, Brian Dourty, was critical in implementing the change.
“We want to ensure that our students have connectivity, and until we have the confidence to provide that reliably, we will be using Spectrum,” Dourty said.
However, Dourty said Spectrum had its own issues as well because with the service, students who excessively use the internet can diminish the speeds of others.
“I think that the poor performance that we’ve had with Spectrum in the past has to do with this,” he said.
Dourty said he would like for two steps to be completed before implementing CometNet again. First, OIT is planning to collaborate with Cisco, the supplier of the access points, to find a solution to making the access points functional, even in rough weather. Next, University Village needs to finish its project to improve the apartments’ electrical systems.
“We have some work that is set to take place that is supposed to help increase the reliability of the electrical system,” he said. “This won’t be done till the end of August or early September.”
As for the access points themselves, Cisco’s reports should be coming in the first week of school, Dourty said. Right now, only 10 access points are offline out of the 2,403 installed in all the residential areas. The rest are back up and functional.
“We are likely going to leave (the access points) up and functioning,” Dourty said. “This is more so that we can monitor that and make sure it will function as it was designed.”
Students in UV will have Spectrum services available to them while the issues with CometNet in the apartments are being fixed. Matt Grief, associate vice president for student affairs, indicated that students would be able to use personal routers, wireless printers and streaming devices with Spectrum. Currently, with CometNet, these machines are not allowed because they use device-to-device communication, which is considered a security risk to the university network.
“We can’t do the same as Spectrum because we are providing a unified, university-managed network,” Dourty said. “We are responsible for maintaining the security of the entire network. Spectrum is treating each residence as its own subunit.”
Students, such as computer science sophomore Seth Giovanetti, are not pleased with this ban. Giovanetti even went so far as to send an email to OIT regarding his frustrations. He said he understands the security concerns that arise with a unified campus internet, but he wishes it could be handled differently.
“I think that if UTD really invests in its network infrastructure, it would be far superior to Time Warner Cable,” he said. “I think the university has the resources to do this right.”
Student Government President JW Van Der Schans said he hasn’t had any students come to SG with concerns about the internet. Van Der Schans said he personally believes that the security of students should be prioritized above all, but he understands the viewpoint of students who are displeased.
“Obviously people have spent a decent amount of money on their routers and devices, and it becomes a difficult situation when those are rendered obsolete,” he said. “However, money and cost are extremely tangible things, and safety or security are not as tangible, even if they are important as well.”
Van Der Schans said students come to him with complaints about the slow internet with Time Warner, so he favored the move to campus internet services.
“When they talked about it, they had our green light as students because they said the internet was going to be better, which is always preferable,” he said.
Brian Dourty said the university’s own services control more variables, including security and the amount of bandwidth each student can access.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to segment the internet like Spectrum does,” he said. “But at that point, the responsibility for security is back to the student. They are only dependent on how secure the router is. We are trying to provide a higher quality service to our students.”