by James Nguyen

Despite many complaints about the network from students, Fairfield was recently ranked 18 nationwide in the Princeton Review’s “Top 25 Most Connected Campuses” second annual listing.

The criteria spans more than just the network sophistication; it also includes the ratio between accessible public computers and the number of students on campus, the ease of obtaining digital camcorders and cameras for student use and the comprehensiveness of the computer science curriculum.

However, many students claim that Fairfield’s connection is often chaotic, disrupting their productivity.

“When the Internet is somehow slow or interrupted, my life is totally gone because I have so much stuff on there,” said Ashley Ferranti ’07. “I use it as a communication tool to schedule my day via instant messaging or emailing and instead of reading the actual newspaper, I will actually read the news online and check my stock quotes there.”

Many students on campus, like Ferranti, expect the Internet to be working at 100 percent. However, students often find that the Internet never meets their expectations, and is often slow.

Yet the definition of “slow” can be debated. The real key is to examine whether or not Fairfield provides a satisfying World Wide Web experience.

Streaming video, a method of watching videos in real-time as they are downloaded (comparable to watching television but through your computer), has quickly gained popularity among Internet users.

A study conducted by the AccuStream iMedia Research firm concluded that video streaming has increased by 104 between 2002 and 2003, with news being one-third of the content that users view.

“It’s just bad when you think you have a broadband connection and you can’t even access web sites and watch video coverage of newscasts because it’s so slow,” says Michael Barrett ’07.

Internet access for residents living on campus is provided through Lightpath, a division of Cablevision specializing in electronic communication for organizations. Lightpath’s network at Fairfield is comprised of a fractional “DS3” which allows for up to roughly 15 megabits of data to be transferred per second simultaneously, shared among all 2,549 housed students.

Megabit is a term used to describe the speed of data being transferred over the Internet. On average, a home that is equipped with SBC Yahoo DSL can download at a speed of about one megabit per second. In practical terms, you can download a four megabyte song in about 40 seconds.

In comparison, neighboring Sacred Heart University provides a fractional “T3” connection to their 2,220 full-time residents. The fractional “T3” line at Sacred Heart runs at 18 megabits per second, which is not that much faster than the speed of Fairfield’s Internet.

Not all students are unhappy with the Internet speed at Fairfield; the fear of downtime is more of a concern.

“I’m thrilled with it because it’s actually faster than what I have at home, which is dial-up,” said Julie Briggs ’07. “When it’s down though, it’s frustrating because I can’t retrieve urgent, high-priority emails.”

Richard Mattica, the network manager at Computing ‘ Network Services, said he was generally “satisfied” with the network performance on campus since it is “adequate for all students needs.”

Besides scheduled maintenance, intermittent downtimes that last anywhere between a few minutes to a whole day can be attributed to a student using a computer infected with viruses, according to Donald Adams, director of Computing ‘ Network Services.

He said that since the network can self-detect problems within specific dorms, it has the ability to automatically shut down the whole network in a building, forcing CNS technicians to locate the offender and rectify the situation.

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