What Is the Equivalent of Bad WiFi in Higher Ed?


June 27, 2016

Going off campus means leaving good WiFi. Wherever we go, the WiFi will be worse than where we came.

Where is the WiFi bad? Airports. Hotels. Conferences. (Where else?)

In 2016 we have basically figured out WiFi on our campuses (let us know if your experience differs), but have completely failed to extend this advance to any space that higher ed people may roam.

So if airports, hotels, and conference venues (which are sometimes also hotels) are so bad at WiFi - what is higher ed equally bad at?

If WiFi is a blindspot for airports, hotels, and conferences - then what is our blindspot in higher ed?

The reason that the WiFi is so bad at airports, hotels, and conferences is an interesting question.  Is bad WiFi in these places a result of the fact that delivering good WiFi is not their core competency?  Is bad WiFi a result of the lack of a sustainable business model to fund adequate bandwidth and reliability?

Or is bad WiFi more a story about the impossibility of keeping up with ever increasing demands?  We not only have many more devices that we want to get on the WiFi (computers, tablets, phones, and e-readers) - we are using the bandwidth more intensively.  Where before we may have been happy if we could send e-mails, today we want to have video conferences and to be able to watch Netflix, YouTube and Hulu.

Is it correct, however, to claim that higher ed has figured out WiFi?

I remember a few years ago when everyone was worried about campus bandwidth.  There were fierce arguments about putting limits on individual downloading.  A great deal of worry (and arguments) about what type of Internet traffic should be prioritized and what should be throttled.  Predictions were made that streaming would kills “normal” academic internet use on campus.

From what I can tell, campus bandwidth is today less of an existential worry.

The people who run our campus networks have done an amazing job of both increasing capacity and getting the most out of the resources they have to work with.  Creating a robust wireless network is both science and art - and higher ed network professionals are crazy good at ensuring fast and robust connections for all the devices that we all bring to campus.

So assuming that higher ed is good at WiFi (and again, we can discuss this claim) - then what are we bad at?

What are those things that we do that are important to our customers - in the way that good WiFi is important to the customers of airports/hotels/conferences - that we do poorly?



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