New fibre connections installed, WiFi upgrades planned
By Jake Wray, News Editor and Colten Kamlade, Staff Reporter
Douglas College is upgrading its internet connection.
A new fibre-optic connection was installed at the New Westminster campus this fall, and the Coquitlam campus is set to receive a new fibre-optic connection by the end of 2017. CEIT is also planning upgrades to the WiFi infrastructure at both campuses, which may be welcome news to some students who said the wireless internet connection at Douglas is inconsistent.
Ian McLeod, chief information officer with Douglas College, said in an interview with the Other Press that both campuses used to share one 500 mbps internet connection, but approximately one year ago the college upgraded to a temporary service that provided a 1 gbps connection to each campus.
“We essentially quadrupled our pipe size to the internet,” he said.
Now, that temporary service has been replaced in New Westminster by a long-term 1 gbps connection to BridgeNet, a fibre-optic network owned by the City of New Westminster. The Coquitlam campus is set to transition from the temporary connection to a 1 gbps connection provided by the Coquitlam Optical Network Corporation, which is affiliated with the City of Coquitlam. McLeod said the Coquitlam campus will transfer connections “within the next month or so.”
One advantage of the city-affiliated connections is that the college won’t have to pay a monthly lease fee for the connection, according to McLeod. In fact, he said, the cost of the new connections has been covered entirely by grants from the BC ministry of advanced education and Canaire, a non-profit digitial infrastructure organization.
“It’s a sweet deal for Douglas because we don’t pay,” McLeod said.
McLeod said now that the new connections are in place, upgrading the speed will be a straightforward process. The current 1 gbps connections are sufficient for now, he said, but the infrastructure is in place to upgrade to a 10 gbps connection, if needed.
“Basically we have access to dedicated fibre optic circuits and, even though we’re currently going to run at 1 gig, fibre optic circuits can run at [10 gbps or 100 gbps,] so the growth potential is way better for us,” he said, adding that an upgrade likely won’t be needed for some time. “We watch the [internet usage] volume pretty carefully every month. We’re at no more than half the current [1 gbps] capacity.”
CEIT has also proposed upgrades to WiFi infrastructure at both campuses. The upgrade budget has yet to be approved by the college, but McLeod said he is confident it will be approved.
He said the two campuses have in total approximately 200 wireless “access points,” which are pieces of hardware that broadcast WiFi signals. CEIT hopes to upgrade the speed and capacity of those access points.
“Assuming we get our funding approval, for next fiscal [year] we are going to replace all of the current access points with high-volume, high-speed access points that run in both spectrums—the 2.4 ghz and 5 ghz—so we’ll be able to improve on our high volume and high traffic areas,” McLeod said.
The upgrade plan also includes implementing additional access points where the WiFi signal is currently weak, according to McLeod.
“[Signals from] access points are sort of like a cloud, a three-dimensional globe, if you like, so there’s always places that have less connectivity and little holes and pockets where there may be no connectivity if you’re behind concrete walls and interesting places,” he said.
McLeod said his department is always looking for comments from students about areas where the WiFi might be weak. The best way to provide feedback, he said, is to contact the CEIT help desk or talk to a students-helping-students volunteer.
The Other Press interviewed 10 students at the New Westminster campus about their experience using the internet at Douglas College. Many said the WiFi connection can be unreliable.
“It’s pretty inconsistent, where sometimes I’ll connect like that and sometimes it will reboot and it’ll take me all day to connect,” said Brandon King, 18, who studies sports science at Douglas.
Jeremy Truong, 20, who studies music therapy at Douglas, said the WiFi sometimes has a bad signal or seems to get overloaded.
“It disconnects a lot,” he said.
“It’s not awful but it’s not great. Different places are better,” said Chanelle Callahan, 21, who takes general studies courses at Douglas.
Mamta Sharma, 18, who studies psychology at Douglas, said logging in to computers in the library can be a dreadfully slow process.
“It’s so slow. [It takes] five minutes and there’s a line-up of people waiting,” she said.
Jonathan Coté, mayor of New Westminster, said in a press release that the City is pleased Douglas College is using a BridgeNet connection.
“We’re excited to connect Douglas College to our BridgeNet fibre optic network,” he said in the press release. “I look forward to seeing how the college uses BridgeNet to improve the educational services they deliver.”
The City of New Westminster launched the BridgeNet network in 2016.