Wireless Internet down? You're not alone, but help is coming

Officials say they're aware service has been spotty and are fixing it

· September 19, 2006, 5:00 am

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Students excited about wireless Internet access in their dorm rooms are receiving disappointing advice from hallmates and the technology experts at Penn:

Don't throw out those Ethernet cords yet.

University officials pledged $700,000 to provide wireless Internet access in all college houses by the time students moved in this year.

Just a few weeks into the semester, however, students living on campus are already complaining of constantly weak signals and dropped connections.

College junior Lauren Malaspina, who lives in Fisher Hassenfeld College House, said that her wireless connection worked well immediately after it was installed, but hasn't worked since.

Malaspina said that when she has the time, she will seek out an ITA to fix it. In the meantime, though, she gets online using an Ethernet cord.

University officials say they are aware of the problem, and are working to fix the connection.

Mike Palladino - one of the Penn officials who oversaw the wireless installation project - said there are three main reasons for the wireless problems.

Too few signal transmitters, failures among those transmitters and computer software glitches are all to blame, Palladino said.

"I'd be lying if I said it's working perfectly, but it's working well for most students," Palladino said.

Since so much infrastructure was installed over the summer, predicting the exact spots of weak connections was not possible, Palladino said.

"It's more of an art than a science," he said. "There's some holes where there are weaker coverage that we plan to fix over the next two to four weeks."

Leah Parnes, a College sophomore living in Rodin College House, said that her wireless connection fails once or twice a day.

The temporary inconvenience is worthwhile, though, Parnes said, if it means that eventually the whole campus will be wireless.

About 7,100 students have access to the wireless connections in the college houses, Palladino said.

Although the system was tested before students arrived, Palladino still anticipated a few problems.

"Wireless isn't as perfect as wired. I think we got it 95-percent right," he said.

And College junior and ITA Mira Gendy, who lives in Gregory College House, said that she has received "very few" complaints from students about their wireless connections.

Gendy also said that her own wireless connection is "temperamental," failing once or twice a day.

For those students with functional wireless access, the system gives them the freedom to do work outside or in other spaces in the dorms.

Engineering freshman Roman Pedan, who lives in Fisher Hassenfeld, said that he has not had problems with his wireless connection. Pedan said that being able to work outside is especially "useful and convenient."

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