University News

Brown-Secure coverage to be improved

Computing and Information Services will bolster the network in areas of weak coverage

By
Contributing Writer
Thursday, November 14, 2013

In response to broad community frustration with the Brown-Secure wireless network, University Computing and Information Services will start work on expanding and improving wireless access across campus starting this week.

“CIS has heard your feedback about wireless issues, including the coverage problems in residence halls, which started this summer when we upgraded the wireless network…. (in) the upcoming weeks, the CIS network team will be visiting classrooms and residence halls to look for inadequate coverage and make adjustments if possible,” wrote Ravi Pendse, vice president of computing and information services and the University’s chief information officer, in an email Monday to students living on campus.

Pendse, who came to the University from Wichita State University in September, said that in addition to comments he received from students, his own troubles with wireless access convinced him a problem exists.

“After I came (to Brown), in my own personal use, and as I started talking to lots of students … it became pretty obvious and apparent that we have some serious wireless concerns and issues,” Pendse said.

Pendse said the University places too high a premium on wired connections through ethernet cords and has neglected to accommodate the rise of more Internet-connected devices, such as smartphones and gaming consoles.

“Over the years, wireless has become the primary network that people use. All of us are always on, always connected. We (only) use wired when we have to,” Pendse said. “We need to be sure we are providing not just adequate coverage but adequate capacity.”

Though Monday’s statement only lists six non-residential buildings receiving improvements, Pendse noted that the list was not exhaustive, adding that testing has begun on the third floor of Emery Hall and that the network team will slowly expand the network across campus.

“Once (our) proof of concept works, we will do the same thing for all the other buildings,” Pendse said. “We are not going to stop until every residence hall is taken care of.”

According to the statement, work to improve connections in Faunce House, the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall and Salomon 101 was scheduled to start Monday.

Problems connecting to Brown-Secure have long been a source of consternation around campus. The Undergraduate Council of Students’ Fall Poll included a question asking students about their opinions on wireless access on campus, and BlogDailyHerald has published a series of stories encouraging readers to “Beat Brown-Secure” by sending in Help Desk tickets when Brown-Secure fails and connecting to eduroam — a wireless network supplied by the eduroam initiative, a non-profit committed to providing students and academics with Internet access on campuses other than their own.

Ivan Alcantara ’16 said last year he had a particularly negative experience with the University’s WiFi. He said it was difficult to connect and stay on the network “especially in (his) dorm,” adding that his “room had the worst WiFi in (Champlin Hall).”

Alcantara said he was “not very optimistic” about the potential changes outlined in Monday’s statement. “That’s what they said last year, so I’m not sure if that will be an improvement,” he said.

Shivang Desai ’14, said he had relatively few issues with Brown-Secure, especially after the CIS Help Desk configured his laptop to better connect to the network. But he added that he still experienced troubles, particularly in some classrooms.

“It seems like when it’s not working, it’s not working for anyone in the room,” Desai said, adding that a potential change to the wireless networks as they exist would be “helpful.”

Pendse said he hopes to stay in close contact with the community as his team makes adjustments to the network. He said he wants any students who have issues with the wireless network to reach out and contact him.

“This is very important. We need to make sure our students have the right technology and tools in (their) hands,” Pendse said. “I’m available to talk with any student who wants to talk with me.”