The Pomona College Information Technology Services Department is taking action to resolve wireless network instability issues by replacing the entire campus Wi-Fi network, Computer Resources Manager Steven Hurtado wrote in an email to Pomona students, faculty, and staff.
“ITS is physically replacing every single wireless access point around campus with new hardware, providing better, more reliable coverage,” Hurtado wrote in an email to TSL.
ITS is doing walkthroughs of all academic and administrative buildings to identify current access points and evaluate if additional access points need to be added, according to Hurtado. ITS has also partnered with outside vendors to help get the replacements done more quickly.
The ITS Department recommends students use either “Pomona” or “eduroam” as their Wi-Fi network. Hurtado wrote that “Pomona” allows for direct access to Pomona network resources — printers, file services — whereas “eduroam” is designed to work at any of the colleges in the consortium, as well as numerous academic institutions around the country. Students on “eduroam” can access Pomona-specific resources by setting up a Pomona virtual private network connection.
There is a document on Pomona’s website called “Upgrade Plan,” which is supposed to keep the community updated while the replacements take place. All the residence halls are listed as “Completed.” However, students have voiced concerns regarding wireless instability in the upgraded buildings and all over campus.
“My parents live very far away, and it’s very hard to place calls to them because I don’t have signal in the Harwood basement,” said Sara Acevedo PO ’21, a transfer student from Puerto Rico. “[I] have to rely on Wi-Fi to make these calls.”
Many students have tried all the Wi-Fi network options to find what works best for them. Emily Lunger PO ’21 said the “eduroam” network “works like a gem.”
However, not all students have been able to successfully connect to “eduroam.” Abdullah Shahid PO ’19 has had trouble connecting to all of the Wi-Fi networks.
“I’ve been here for four years, and [the Wi-Fi] has been horrible all four years,” Shahid said. “Why do I pay so much for so little?”
Hurtado explained that the network name does not affect the connectivity of the Wi-Fi because the hardware is causing the issues.
“[T]he experience in non-upgraded buildings may be poor regardless of which network you use,” Hurtado wrote. He recommends using “Pomona” and “eduroam,” even in locations that have not been upgraded yet.
To connect to “Pomona,” students may need to register their device at registration.pomona.edu. For “eduroam,” students can connect using firstname.lastname@example.org and their password; staff and faculty can connect using email@example.com and their password.
If students are still experiencing spotty Wi-Fi in their dorm rooms or other locations, Hurtado encourages them to contact ITS directly.
“Let us know which building and room number they experience the trouble, if the coverage is fine in other locations (particularly residence halls) and what device(s) they are using,” Hurtado wrote. “That information will help us to investigate why the Wi-Fi is operating poorly.”
The Wi-Fi might be spotty in dorms because the outdoor hardware hasn’t been updated yet, Hurtado wrote.
“The outdoor hardware that is on the old system may be partially contributing to continued spotty coverage in the residence halls, if a device is connecting to one of the wireless access points for outdoor coverage instead of the new hardware within the residence halls,” Hurtado wrote.
Pomona only manages the “Pomona” Wi-Fi network. Other networks commonly used by students, including “Claremont,” “Claremont-ETC,” “Claremont-WPA,” and “eduroam,” are controlled by The Claremont Colleges Services.
In the email to students and faculty, Hurtado wrote that they are transitioning to Cisco hardware because their current wireless hardware vendor has been unable to resolve wireless instability issues.
“The original system was theoretically capable of meeting even our current needs at the time of its investment several years ago, but vendor support certainly became a contributing factor to us deciding to move forward with this project as issues continued with no resolution,” Hurtado wrote.
The ITS Department plans to finish all the upgrades by Thanksgiving, according to Hurtado.