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10-05-21-airpennnet-jesse-zhang

Penn's Information Systems and Computing has "identified vendor software bugs" that have been affecting AirPennNet's performance.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

Students have reported issues connecting to the campus Wi-Fi service, AirPennNet, multiple times this semester, complicating their ability to complete schoolwork.

Penn's Information Systems and Computing has "identified vendor software bugs that have been impacting performance," ISC Executive Director of Technology Services Tiffany Hanulec wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian on Oct. 5. She added that ISC is tentatively planning to upgrade to a newer version of the vendor software over fall break, which starts Oct. 14.

ISC previously performed maintenance on AirPennNet to address connectivity issues on Sept. 11 and Sept. 18, according to two emails ISC sent to residents of College Houses on Sept. 10 and Sept. 17.

Amid these connection issues, students have reported being unable to complete a variety of activities online, including submitting assignments and participating in job and internship interviews. Some students have resorted to connecting to mobile hotspots or renting or buying ethernet cables — which can connect devices to the internet via a cable — in order to work around the faulty connection.

College sophomore Amy Vidal, who lives in Harrison College House, said that this is not the first time she has had issues with Wi-Fi at Penn. AirPennNet was unreliable for her in the spring semester as well, hindering her ability to participate in her online American Sign Language class.

Vidal said that she had to email tech support in the spring, who provided her with an ethernet cable that she still uses this semester — albeit with limited success.

“Even then, sometimes [the ethernet cable] just doesn't work, and there's just no internet whatsoever. And this occurred during times where I needed to upload an assignment to Canvas,” Vidal said.

College sophomore Nick Hanchak and his roommates similarly experienced Wi-Fi problems in campus housing. Hanchak, who lives in the newly opened $169.5 million New College House West, said he faced connectivity issues for almost an entire week.

“I just remember one night I had a chemistry quiz due on Canvas and [AirPennNet] kept cutting out during that, so it took a long time to just get it submitted, which made it kind of frustrating and stressful," Hanchak said.

Engineering senior Maya Patel, who has been interviewing for software engineering positions at several companies, said AirPennNet suddenly cut out during a coding challenge she took while at Fisher Fine Arts Library.

“At minute 57 or 58 of my coding challenge, I was passing all but three of the test cases, and I realized what I had to do to fix it. But at that moment, the connection had gone out, so I was unable to hit the ‘Run Code’ button,” Patel said. “As soon as I refreshed the page, I was locked out of the test, and [there] was an error message on the screen. So essentially, I didn't know if my tests submitted or not.”

Patel said she later received confirmation that the coding challenge had been automatically saved and submitted, but she added that she was lucky that she was nearly finished when the Wi-Fi cut out.

She added that she has frequently had to switch to an Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot or go to her off-campus apartment to do her work. 

"I definitely feel lucky at the end of the day that I can always use the Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot, or I could just go home and have a reliable WiFi connection there, but I definitely know a lot of underclassmen or people that are on campus where AirPennNet is their only source of WiFi," Patel said.

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