Note: The “Network News” monthly feature highlights current events in UIT's network operations group.
By Jesse Drake and Rosalia Villegas
Lassonde Studios is – by design – a hive of activity.
"In other [student] housing buildings on campus, you're not going to find people moving around and talking as much as they do here," said Logan Cox, Lassonde resident advisor (RA) and junior security analyst in UIT's Information Security Office (ISO). "Lassonde is meant for you to move."
Mobility thrives on staying connected, and Lassonde – a live-work building for student entrepreneurs and innovators – pushes connectivity to the limits, like a fifth floor dedicated to games and digital media. But shortly after move-in day last August, Lassonde residents started expressing concerns to RAs like Cox about WiFi connections dropping out. Concrete pillars between WiFi access points (APs) were one issue, and another was that not all students were acting as good WiFi citizens.
Being a good WiFi citizen means using best practices when connecting to the U's network, and refraining from using electronic devices and appliances that interfere or degrade the WiFi connection of people around you. Some problematic devices are secondary "rogue" access points muddling the signals of wired and wireless networks, causing distortion and slowness. It turned out that more than 100 students had set up their own APs. Other things are less obvious: bluetooth speakers, wireless media players like Roku and Apple TV, even microwave ovens.
To educate Lassonde residents on WiFi best practices, Cox teamed up with Network Manager Ray Carsey to launch a Good WiFi Citizen campaign.
The first step was developing and distributing a flyer (pdf) which was posted around the building and displayed on common area tables, handed out at monthly Get Seeded events, and discussed at community meetings.
"What's cool is they're a talking prompt. They help RAs fill in knowledge gaps, and help everyone be more community-minded," Cox said. "Now that they know what interferes [with a WiFi signal], they can start to think more critically and make tweaks where necessary – like if you’re not using your wireless printer, and not using it for weeks on end, turn it off."
Carsey said early evidence points to a drop in rogue device use at Lassonde.
"We've noticed the number of personal devices plugged into the network, anything acting as an access point that isn't ours, has gradually been going down," Carsey said. "We attribute some of that to education."
The Good WiFi Citizen campaign is in keeping with the U's strategic goal of promoting student success. Collaborating with Lassonde, and engaging and educating student users, also aligns with UIT's overall WiFi strategy, which places a high value on the WiFi experience of students on campus.