Perpetual Internet problems anger tenants at University Village Apartments
Rich Tehan was taking an online quiz from his bedroom at the University Village Apartments complex when his Internet crashed.
‘I lost connection completely to Blackboard so it cut out, and I got a zero on the quiz,’ said Tehan, a junior information management and technology and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises major.
Tehan’s professor let him make up the quiz after he explained the Internet collapse. But it was not the first or last time Tehan’s Internet went down in the apartment, and it has happened with both wireless and Ethernet connections.
He now uses Syracuse University’s network to complete homework and has had to travel to Goldstein Student Center six times to connect to the Internet, which he said was a huge inconvenience.
‘You’re paying big money, and you can’t even depend on your Internet,’ Tehan said. ‘And you’re forced to leave your apartment to get work done.’
The slow Internet connection is a widespread problem at the South Campus UVA complex, where 432 people live and pay between $900 and $1,000 per month for rent. Residents argue they have experienced online troubles since school started in late August, and some complain the complex’s management has been slow to fix the problem. Students have taken their complaints to the Web as well, where they have been complaining since around Sept. 1 on the apartment complex’s Facebook page.
The number of UVA residents grew by 130 in its second year open, so more students are eating up the available bandwidth, but UVA officials did not expect the Internet connection to slow because it was not a problem the previous year, said Matt Burkett, the community manager for UVA.
‘We didn’t anticipate having this much of an issue,’ he said.
UVA runs into the most problems with its Internet connection when its usage peaks between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., Burkett said. The connection is usually fine during the day because students are in class, he said.
UVA officials decided the Internet’s bandwidth needed to be expanded the week of Sept. 13, Burkett said. The complex plans to cancel its contract with Time Warner Cable. The bandwidth provider, Fibertech Networks, will expand UVA’s Internet connection by laying half a mile of new fiber line, but there is no timetable for when the project will start or finish, Burkett said.
‘It’s not as easy as just flipping a switch, there’s a lot of infrastructure involved,’ he said.
The expansion process is slow because Fibertech has to create a contract, finalize permits with Syracuse, install the fiber underground and schedule the construction, said Scott Casey, vice president of information technology at Education Realty Trust, which owns the UVA property.
‘You’ve got to possibly go under streets, you’ve got to redirect traffic, possibly because of construction crews,’ Casey said.
Fibertech is currently in the process of getting permits approved from the city for the fiber expansion, which will double UVA’s bandwidth to 100 megabytes, Casey said. He said he expects the fiber line to be installed before bad winter weather strikes, but could not guarantee the new line would be in before final exams in December.
‘It’s not going to be six months or anything like that,’ Casey said. ‘We’ll have it in as quickly as possible.’
The biggest challenge UVA faces is an increase in video streaming on websites like Hulu, Casey said. But Education Realty Trust, which manages nearly 60 properties, has complexes with no Internet problems that have more students but the same amount of bandwidth as UVA, Casey said.
‘Managing the Internet usage at these properties is really a day-to-day challenge for us,’ Casey said.
But the fix may not come soon enough for some students, who have already decided not to renew their leases for next year.
‘Basically the students are out of luck,’ said Josh Fishman, a junior marketing management and entrepreneurship major who pays nearly $1,000 for rent.
He started experiencing problems with UVA’s Internet connection at the beginning of the semester and has since been unable to open MySlice at times. When Fishman tries to watch Netflix, only the audio or video will play, and videos sometimes take 20 minutes to load, he said.
‘One night it’ll be good, and then the next night it’ll be awful,’ Fishman said. ‘It won’t even load.’
He tries to get most of his homework completed during the day on campus because of UVA’s Internet issues, he said. He blames UVA’s management team, he said, for not communicating the problems to residents.
‘It’s basically a big game of pointing the finger at each other,’ he said.
Fishman also does not get any high-definition channels, something that was guaranteed in the lease, and his basic cable channels look fuzzy, he said.
Burkett, UVA’s community manager, said the complex was trying to make upgrades to respond to the cable problems.
UVA plans to add a program offering extra high-definition channels, but Burkett said there was no timeframe for when the upgrades would be installed. Through the updates, the satellite dish on top of UVA’s clubhouse would intercept new channels and run them through an existing network into residents’ rooms, he said.
UVA resident Dan Blackson, who pays nearly $900 per month for his space, also said he has not received any high-definition channels.
‘We do pay for that stuff, and we’re not getting it,’ said Blackson, a junior film major.
His Internet was slow from the first week he got to school, and he said UVA was not prepared for the number of students living there this year. UVA officials insisted the complex’s Internet speed was fine and ignored their residents, he said.
‘If they would just respond to us, people would chill out for at least a couple days,’ Blackson said. ‘It’s bad business, it’s just straight up bad business.’
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