South Carolina State University is updating “every network closet on campus” to boost internet speeds, Chief Information Officer Travis Johnson told EdScoop.
When students returned to campus last fall, the university’s IT team began seeing support tickets from the residence halls about the Wi-Fi being slow or unreliable, he said. Johnson said the team identified the issue as the university’s aging networking hardware. Since then, they’ve replaced network switches in all but one of six active residence halls.
This month, the university upgraded its hardware, fixing its connection issues and improving its theoretical internet speeds from 1 gigabit to 5 gigabits per second.
“It’s about upgrading from old technology, but it’s also about if we do it right, [students] will come and they will stay,” Johnson said. “IT won’t be the reason they leave.”
The goal is to add another 5 gigabits, Johnson said. There are about 150 switches across campus left to replace, with administration buildings about 60% complete, he added. The Wi-Fi improvements are part of a “holistic” approach to upgrading the school’s digital infrastructure, which also included upgrading hardware in classrooms with cameras for hybrid classes.
The timeline on finishing the project is uncertain because of global supply chain issues that delayed delivery on new equipment, Johnston said. It’s important to keep communicating about the project while being in a “holding pattern” until the technology comes in, he said, so users know that change is on the way.
The coronavirus pandemic prompted more students across the country to take online classes or spend more time in their rooms, placing higher demand on campus Wi-Fi that often was already strained. Students already were bringing more devices that ran on Wi-Fi to campus. Ohio’s Bowling Green State University designated $4.7 million last year for replacing wireless access points across campus. Columbus State University, in Georgia, tapped $10 million in federal funds last year for its planned network refresh.