By Joshua Ostrer
With the world at large and especially Union students increasing relying on the Internet in their daily lives, Internet speed and accessibility have inevitably become a concern. For Union students, the Union network is the only way to access the Internet on computers.
Internet speed, quantified by bandwidth, measures the specific upload and download speed of a particular Internet connection.
The Union network, which exclusively provides Internet to Union faculty and students, has a total bandwidth of 225 Mbps (Megabytes per second), 125 Mbps of which is allocated for student use.
However, students are not able to use the full 125 Mbps. Students are throttled to 1 Mbps. Bandwidth “throttling” is the process of limiting a user’s ability to access the bandwidth on a given network in the interest of evenly distributing the Internet provided by a given network.
Student use of the Union network is throttled to 1 Mbps throughout the day. However, from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. during the week and midnight to 7 a.m. Sunday, the throttle is lifted, allowing increased availability of the network with speeds reaching as high as 5 Mpbs.
Throttling is an issue the Liaison Committee on Academic Computing and Technology, a body composed of nine faculty members and three student representatives, has addressed before.
“Due to student complaints about available bandwidth after 11 p.m., we brought the issue to the Liaison Committee on Academic Computing and Technology, which has student representatives. The committee agreed to changing the time that throttling is turned off from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.,” said Chief Information Officer of ITS Ellen Yu Borkowski.
Union students, already throttled to 1 Mbps, do not always receive the full throttled amount. In over 50 speed tests done of the Union network throughout the day, the available download speed varied.
While most tests showed a download speed between .95 and .99 Mbps, about 20 percent of tests showed significantly lower speeds, ranging from .5 to .65 Mbps.
How do these speeds compare to the national average? When receiving the full 1 Mbps, Union’s network receives a national grade of “D” from speedtest.net. The “D” rating places Union’s network in the 25th percentile nationally for Internet speed.
Speedtest.net compiles average upload and download speeds in their net index. “This index compares and ranks consumer download speeds around the globe. The value is the rolling mean throughput in Mbps over the past 30 days,” says the Net Index webpage.
ITS is cognizant of the speed of the current network. “ITS is aware of the shortcomings of the current Internet service for students. I am actively investigating possible ways to secure the resources required to improve the current network infrastructure so that we can enhance and improve Internet speeds for all students,” said Borkowski.
As of now, there is no alternative to the Union network for Union students. Union’s network does not support the individual purchase of routers by students, as the current network is not set up to do so.
“ITS policies are vetted through the Liasion Committee for Academic Computing and Technology. Any changes to policy must be discussed and approved by this committee. Students can work through their student representatives on this committee to bring this agenda item to the committee,” said Borkowski.
If you are interested in improving the bandwidth of the Union network, the best way to do so is to contact the student representatives on the Liaison Committee for Academic Computing and Technology: Jargalsaikhan Dulmaa ‘13, John T. Finn ‘12, and Amin Meyghani ‘13.