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College nearly doubles internet speeds

February 11, 2011

While students were at home during the winter break, Monmouth College’s information systems department completed several upgrades to ease the pressure on the college’s internet. The college has upgraded it’s bandwidth from 45 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 80 Mbps and added numerous wireless access points to residence halls, enhancing the range and number of connections the school’s wireless network can handle.

“Bandwidth in Monmouth, Ill. is a difficult thing,” said Daryl Carr, Executive Director of Information Systems.

The major problem is the lack of internet provider options. Currently, Frontier is the only internet service provider which has the capacity to supply enough bandwidth to the college.

“One of the things about being in a small town is that you don’t have the competition you’d have in a big city like Peoria,” said Jane Jakoubek, Vice President for Institution-Wide Initiatives.

Despite the bump in internet speed, Carr and the Information Systems department are still looking to improve the speed. Carr noted that the college had a connection speed of roughly 56 kilobits per second five to six years ago and has been increasing since. When Monmouth switched to Frontier, they had 10 Mbps. They had upgraded to 45 Mbps at the beginning of the fall semester.

“You can see the progression,” said Carr. “We’ve been doubling every year.”

Despite the recent speed upgrade, the college is working with Frontier to add more bandwidth.

“We’re looking at everything,” said Carr. “We’re taking advantage of everything we can legally do. It hasn’t been cost keeping us from getting what we can.”

One of those options is adding multiple providers. If the college has a secondary or tertiary internet provider, it would alleviate some of the bandwidth problems the college experiences with Frontier. Likewise, if one of the providers would go down, the college would be able to move connections over to another provider.

“We would probably try to stack them all,” said Carr. “Those are all logical things you would do.”

Likewise, the lack of enough wireless access points has also added to the internet crisis. Over the break approximately 35 wireless access points were installed in nine residence halls. In addition, over 60 percent of them use the 802.11n standard, which emits a larger radius of wifi signal and allows for more and faster connections. However, the 802.11n standard was only finalized in 2010, so many computers and smartphones on campus cannot utilize the upgraded access points.

Ultimately, Carr reports that Information Systems understands the needs of the students and is looking for solutions for the bandwidth problems. Already, Monmouth College provides more bandwidth per student than Western Illinois University. To relieve bandwidth issues, Carr suggested that Information Systems may begin caching often watched videos on YouTube and other video services on Monmouth College servers.

“It’s the infrastructure,” said Carr. “It’s like the highways. The highway system took a long time to build.”

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