Why Wi-Fi in SMC Went Awry?

Illustration by Andrew Khanian

Illustration by Andrew Khanian

Wi-Fi is a necessity for today's Santa Monica College students, who use it to submit assignments, take tests, apply for college, and communicate online, all with the freedom of being cordless. Another bonus of Wi-FI is that its pervasiveness: in coffee shops, your home, libraries, businesses, and colleges. So when problems with Wi-Fi occur, students become keenly aware of the issues.

"I hate the fact it signs you out literally every time your computer goes to sleep," said Jasper Rowan, an undecided major at SMC. Rowan said having to input his SMC email and password every time he uses his laptop is a major hassle. And other students agree.

"I just don't like that after an hour or two [the Wi-Fi] logs me out," said Nevaeh Spivey, a Broadcast Journalism major at SMC. Spivey also said that the network's coverage inside buildings need improvement, as he often found it difficult to connect to the internet at Drescher Hall and the Letters and Science (LS) Building.

SMC's IT department have acknowledged their Wi-Fi does, at times, have issues. Dan Rojas, network services manager at SMC, said they do try to promptly address issues brought to their attention, including the recent problem of students’ connections timing out.

“That was never supposed to happen, our systems were designed to time out after 15 minutes of inactivity, but we extended that to eight hours recently,” Rojas said. “We have seen the performance improve for users after that.”

The Wi-Fi system at SMC has gone through improvements through the years since its establishment in 2001. One of the recent updates were the development of new access points, which help extend the Wi-Fi’s range into different areas. SMC's 260 access points allow students to use the same network for all of the school's campuses.

“When you are walking across campus, you are moving from one access point to another one, so a handoff has to take place," said Marc Drescher, Chief Director of Information Technology at SMC. "You are not connected to the same access point from the starting point of where you start walking to where you end up."

Students who have used SMC's Wi-Fi probably noticed the various Wi-Fi networks, including smcwifi-wpa, smc-district, smc-emeritus, and smc-wifi. Originally, the different Wi-Fi networks were designed for different purposes, but the school initiated a plan last summer to condense the Wi-Fi networks into one network. According to the IT department, the single Wi-Fi network should be done by the beginning of the 2018 spring semester called smc-wifi, which is already up and running. Some of the old Wi-Fi networks have already been taken down.

For students having issues connecting to the internet, Rojas said they should "go to the lab personnel. If they are having issues with their devices, then that gets escalated to us to investigate the service in the different areas."

Faculty who experience problems have a different procedure than students. "We have a help desk system that [the faculty and staff] can submit requests or issues directly to [the IT department]," Drescher said.

Rojas wants students to know that the IT department does put in the time and effort to address any serious issues the network may have. “We work pretty tirelessly to try to maintain the Wi-Fi and our network services." he said. "We are always working to improve and replace and upgrade our systems as much as our budget and resources can afford."