In the 21st century, access to the internet is increasingly being recognized as a basic human right, especially in the developed world. Modern universities and an increasing variety of career paths require relatively reliable internet access, so much so that there are initiatives across the country and the world to give underprivileged people access to the internet in the same way that public schools offer free or reduced-price lunches to disadvantaged children.
With this in mind, it seems ridiculous that the University cannot provide even adequate Wi-Fi for its student body.
Providing free Wi-Fi for so many people over such a large area is a challenge, which I do not mean to underestimate. But it’s something the University has been able to do in the past. The Wi-Fi was never incredible on-campus, but it got the job done and spared students from paying extra money every month for going over their data limit on their phones. The quality of the Wi-Fi has decreased noticeably this past semester, to the point of almost being unusable. People are often booted off the network, and even when they can maintain a signal it’s so slow that web pages often fail to load at all, returning error messages like, “The server stopped responding,” or, “The connection timed out.”
I’m not asking to be able to stream Netflix 24/7 or download massive files from inside the tunnel system, but if I get an important email in the 15 minutes between my classes, I should be able to load and read it on my walk.
Access to effective Wi-Fi is no longer just a matter of convenience. Blackboard is often critical to keeping up with classes, and is often the only way for students to access their assignments. Research for papers is done almost exclusively online as more and more books are printed electronically, and even if you need a physical book for your research you likely will have to find it using the library’s website. Students across campus arrive at their jobs and have to waste time finding and often sharing one or a few desktops to clock in through HRMS, since it takes too long to load the website on their phones. This is inefficient, wasting employees’ and employers’ time just because the Wi-Fi can’t load a website fast enough.
There are various reasons why the Wi-Fi could have gotten worse, from aging hardware to the increasing size of the student body and possibly a larger reliance from our population on all of our devices, whether for work or for play. But for a school that has been spending tens of millions of dollars constructing new buildings to improve the physical space of campus for current and future students, it should be a relatively easy task to upgrade the digital space of campus and ensure quality internet access to students. Campus improvements should be aimed not only at making the campus look attractive to prospective students but also to make concrete improvements to students’ day-to-day lives.
While the argument that “we pay enough money at this school that they should give us [service]” is overused, internet access is critical to a modern education and will only get more important as time goes on. If the University wants to make an important change for students, both present and future, a simple upgrade to the Wi-Fi would greatly improve students’ lives across campus.