USC students and faculty have reported an abnormally high number of problems than usual with the university's Wi-Fi networks this week.
Some students said they've been unable to connect to any of USC's three wireless networks. Others said they could get online but had to switch between networks several times to find one that worked.
Sophomore Lindsay Sotnick said she spent 15 minutes trying to connect to USC Secure Wireless at her apartment in Troy Hall. She ended up using the Eduroam network, though she said it was slower than usual.
Freshman Courtney Burke tried to send messages from her phone using USC Secure Wireless Thursday morning, but they wouldn't go through. She resorted to cellular data to send the messages.
Senior Sara Tiano said that on Tuesday she couldn't connect at all to any of the three networks. Her problems continued on Wednesday, when she received an error message saying the Wi-Fi channel was "crowded."
A Wi-Fi channel is a range of frequencies that a wireless network can operate on. When a router is set up, it automatically selects the least-crowded channel to operate on. But as more and more routers are set up, channels that used to be nearly empty can fill up fast.
Megan Vandermark, a USC Annenberg Technical Operations (Tech Ops) employee, said that if too many people try to connect to an access point, which allows devices like smartphones or computers to connect to a network, they could be kicked off the network altogether.
"The more people you have in a space hitting one access point," Vandermark said, "the less bandwidth you're going to have, and the slower it will be."
Despite there being about 230 access points in Wallis Annenberg Hall in particular, students reported having problems throughout the building.
According to a Tech Ops employee, the three employees that make up the Wi-Fi Team, a division of USC Information Technology Services (ITS), are not allowed to discuss any problems with USC's wireless networks outside work. Instead, questions must go through the team's upper management, led by USC Chief Information Officer Douglas Shook.
The Wi-Fi Team member told the Tech Ops employee that they "have had a lot of issues recently." He said, "Believe me, I would love to talk about it, but I would get in so much trouble."
David Galassi, Assistant CIO for Enterprise Infrastructure and Services, said ITS did receive calls reporting problems with Wi-Fi, "but they were of normal volume and attributed to not necessarily systemic problems."
Galassi said ITS receives five to ten calls per day, and the number of calls has stayed roughly the same throughout the semester.
"There's no indication that the network's performance is different," he said.
Galassi agreed that USC's system isn't perfect. He said USC has a "significant plan" to improve Wi-Fi coverage campus-wide over the summer, with a budget around $100,000.
Kenneth Simpson, an ITS employee manning the ITS Service Cart outside of Leavey Library Thursday afternoon, said he hadn't received any complaints about Wi-Fi from students or faculty, but students having problems could contact ITS to file a ticket, which the department would then investigate.