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Univ. needs to phase out Brandeis Open network, improve eduroam

By Zach Phil Schwartz

Section: Opinions

February 6, 2015

On a daily basis, Brandeis students normally have a lot to deal with: studying, working, eating and sleeping. With all that we go through, we shouldn’t have to worry about our Internet access, which for some has been looping in and out of connectivity. For others, this problem is compounded with previous computer history and a quickness to connect to the now obsolete Brandeis Open network. The time has come to pull the plug on the outdated network.

Last year, Brandeis made the switch over to the new eduroam network system. It is supposed to be faster and is already a standard at other colleges. For example, my phone was able to connect to an eduroam hotspot at Middlebury College last week thanks to Brandeis’ use of the system. It has the potential to be very helpful, but that potential is restrained by problems with connectivity here. Recently, for some students, connectivity to the Wi-Fi network has been spotty, causing unnecessary headaches for students who actually need to use the network. I can’t pretend to know why the network is doing that, but I can tell you that for some, especially those students who have connected to Brandeis Open in the past, the headaches get worse.

Computers have a tendency to remember past networks, so students who have used the older Brandeis Open network in the past end up connecting to that older, obsolete system once the current eduroam network starts to freak out. It goes on to add insult to injury when the welcome page to Brandeis Open urges students to switch over to eduroam. Thanks, Brandeis, but I was trying to do that anyway.

“But Zach,” one might say, “can’t we just get our computers to forget the Brandeis Open network?” Well that should work, but that old network finds its way back onto our computer screens. During one of the eduroam disconnection/reconnection fiascos, my computer just so happened to take a liking to Brandeis Open—a network that I had never before joined. Now, my computer likes to connect to that system whenever eduroam likes to stop working. It’s unavoidable, outdated and needs to be ejected from our Wi-Fi network lists.

Today, the purpose of the Brandeis Open network is chiefly for Wi-Fi-ready systems that don’t have the capacity reserved for computers to sign into the Brandeis servers with UNet IDs and passwords: video game consoles, Wi-Fi ready televisions, et cetera. It also serves as a network for older devices and media players, according to the LTS welcome page.

At a university where Ethernet LAN has more or less been outlawed, Wi-Fi is a student’s only access to the Internet, and LTS should be able to provide a working eduroam system that is able to sustain long-term connections for everyone on this campus. Obviously, this isn’t the case, which is why resources from the outdated network need to be reallocated to the eduroam system. If the university can totally discontinue Brandeis Open and restribute its resources, it’s possible that we can be able to have a better eduroam that allows Brandeis students to access the internet at top capacity.

We are left, however, with the problem of the other Brandeis networks, Brandeis Guest and Brandeis Secure. These two can be consolidated with Brandeis Open into a newer, independent network for guests and non-computer Wi-Fi enabled devices. In this way, there can be fewer networks to connect to, leading to a consolidated system that would cost less to maintain. This system should require little oversight with a basic coffee shop-like login system that would require fewer resources. With this setup guests can easily access Wi-Fi while on campus without hindering students.

Eduroam, Brandeis’ new Wi-Fi network meant to provide easier and faster Internet access for students, is faced with several connectivity issues. Regardless of their cause, allocating more resources to LTS to rectify the issues from the relatively unused Brandeis Open network should help in this situation. Phasing out the Brandeis Open and Brandeis Guest networks and creating a new network can help with connectivity issues and still have two distinct usable and working networks. In this day and age and at a school where Wi-Fi is the only source of Internet access, this is a situation that needs fixing, and it needs fixing now.

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