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Internet, wireless usage continues to grow rapidly at UGA

Monday, November 16, 2015

The University of Georgia continues to work to meet the demand for increased wireless connectivity on campus, according to Dr. Timothy Chester, vice president for information technology.

In his annual State of Technology at UGA address on November 12, Chester said the University has increased its total bandwidth capacity 20-fold over the past four years, as well as doubled the number of wireless Internet access points, bringing the maximum number of possible connections to 75,000 across campus.

But Internet usage at UGA has also increased rapidly over the past four years, rising from 1.36 gigabytes consumed in September 2011 to 5.1 gigabytes consumed in September 2015. The number of registered wireless devices on campus also continues to grow. In September 2011, only 6,000 wireless devices were registered on campus. This year, that number has grown to 53,296.

The increased demand for wireless presents some challenges, particularly in the residence halls, Chester acknowledged. Students living in the residence halls use about approximately 50 percent of the University’s total bandwidth.

“Students have positive perceptions about technology at the University in all areas, except wireless networking,” he said of the annual survey results from students, faculty and staff on technology services at UGA. “The conversations I’ve had with students, particularly ones in classes I teach, the perception is the wireless coverage in residence halls is not good. We know we’ve got some work to do there.”

Chester said the university’s central IT department, Enterprise Information Technology Services (EITS), will soon launch a new survey for residents in University Housing to better gauge perceptions of the PAWS-Secure wireless network and find problem areas for technicians to address in residence halls.

The University is in the beginning stages of launching eduroam, an additional secure roaming wireless network on campus that would also allow UGA students, faculty and staff traveling to other participating eduroam institutions to sign on to the wireless network on those campuses using their UGA MyID and password.

“Internet usage continues to grow exponentially and Internet connectivity is one of those foundational things on campus that has to work well in order for everything else to work well. One of the great things about the leadership team we have at the University of Georgia is that we have a president and a provost that understand that and have been supportive of the types of financial investments we need to make to stay ahead of this curve.”

Increasing Internet bandwidth also has an impact on the University’s mission to support research. The University recently invested in expanded 1 gigabyte connections to its campuses in Griffin, Buckhead and Tifton, and there are plans to expand the bandwidth capacity at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

The University is also working in bringing more services to UGA mobile app.The app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, now includes bus trackers for both Campus Transit and Athens Transit, as well access to student accounts, library resources, dining hall menus and several other campus services. Chester said there are plans to add components focused on student academic success and advisement to the UGA mobile app.

The vLab, the University’s virtual computer lab environment, was also recently upgraded to provide enhanced video support and faster load times for applications. Specialized software, such at MATLAB, a high-level environment used for numerical computation and programming, continues to be added.

“The payoff is fantastic too, not just for students, but also faculty who want to access services from their home,” Chester said.

The university is also working on expanding the use of ArchPass, the University’s two-factor authentication system, as well as updating its finance, human resources and payroll systems, he said.