Greater Capacity, Greater Results

Kalamazoo College increases its student bandwidth capacity from 240mbps to 400mpbs.

By Sarah Wallace

A student’s laptop once served primarily to access academic websites. Now, the Internet acts not only as a portal to the Hornet Hive, but to the entertainment world. As laptops transform into televisions and music players, this technology-driven shift calls for a greater bandwidth capacity.

This quarter, Kalamazoo College’s Information Services has raised its bandwidth capacity for students from 240 megabits per second to 400 mbps. Before this latest upgrade, K had been nearly hitting its bandwidth capacity every day.

With the expiration of K’s three-year telephone contract with TDS Technologies, Information Services has invested in a packaged deal with CTS Telecom, their current bandwidth provider. Costing an extra $20,000 a year, Kalamazoo changed their phone provider to CTS and increased their bandwidth capacity. This caused for a considerable jump in K’s standing among other schools in the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA).

A survey conducted last October revealed that K had the lowest total bandwidth in the GLCA and the second lowest bandwidth per-student at the College. Now, K ranks as having among the highest bandwidth capacity per student. Pictured here is the survey, with the addition of K’s current bandwidth capacity.

Though the term “bandwidth” is often tossed around, the definition remains fuzzy for most people. It is often thought of as a higher Internet speed, but, in fact, it is rather just a higher capacity for Internet use.

This capacity is divided among all of the networks, including Res Net (for students), Academic (for faculty), Admin (for administrative staff), Lab Net (for computer labs and classrooms) and Guest Net (for guests).

While this increase is substantial, there have been many like it just in the past few years. In 2009, K’s bandwidth was only 40mbps. By Spring Quarter of 2011, it had up surged to 100mpbs.

The need for a higher streaming capacity is steadily growing. Greg Diment, the Chief Information Officer for Information Services, recognizes that the last few years have demanded a much greater mbps capacity.

“The demand for bandwidth seems to be ever increasing. In only recent years has there been streaming videos (YouTube, Netflix, etc.) and that drives the need for more data,” said Diment.

Students’ high level of streaming is why the greatest amount of bandwidth capacity is dedicated to the student subnet. In fact, 80% of the throughput is to students, while the other 20 percent is for all of the other sub nets.

While the Internet morphs from just a means of completing homework to a device that serves as a pastime for entertainment, K staff is willing to accommodate the ever-growing uses for the Internet.

“We recognize that there was a need for a large increase and are pleased that we were able to make that investment,” said Diment.

Diment: Campus Internet Lags Behind

Kalamazoo College’s Internet Bandwidth is Among the Lowest of All Colleges in the GLCA

By Sarah Wallace


About: Kalamazoo College''s bandwidth in mega bits per second (per student) set against Wabash College''s. Wabash is the leader in bandwidth per student among schools in GLCA. Kalamazoo College has the second lowest bandwidth per student in the GLCA and the outright lowest total bandwidth. (Graph by Graham Key)

Whether in the crowded library or the comfort of a dorm, students are frustrated with the slow internet connection. This is the case for many students on campuses across the country, but it’s hitting home especially hard for Kalamazoo College students. Last October, a survey was conducted that revealed that K had the lowest bandwidth devoted to students in the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA). The College nearly hits its bandwidth capacity several times a day. K does have the lowest bandwidth, but it does not have the lowest bandwidth per student. However, it still remains low. Our technical support staff is well aware of this. Every week, Information Services generates a graph in relation to bandwidth use per day on all of its networks. The bandwidth is separated into 6 different network groups: student residents, guests, labs and classrooms, faculty and staff, and core services. Visible from the graph, the student residential network takes up the majority of this bandwidth. With a current bandwidth of 240mbps, Information Services is looking to possibly increase this number substantially. “Both of these graphs indicate to us that we need more bandwidth per student. We are developing our budget for next year and are planning to add more,” said Greg Diment, the Chief Information Officer of Information Services. The current internet provider is CTS Telecom, having switched from AT&T two years ago. The College spends about $60,000 a year on its bandwidth. “We’re negotiating with a couple of different companies to see if we can see a little bit of a lower price,” said Diment. Bandwidth is evidently reaching its max out point. Though Information Services has this data on bandwidth usage, it receives little input from students about difficulties with the wireless network speed. “We’ve only gotten mild complaints about the slowness of the internet. We do know that there are vague complaints; however, they are ones that students share with each other in person and on Facebook. We aren’t getting many formal complaints,” said Diment. Bandwidth does need improving. But without student input, it’s unknown if this is the only reason for a slow internet connection. “Maybe there’s a bad router or a bad access point in a particular residence hall, or a certain time of day it gets slow…we can’t figure that out if no one’s formally telling us about that,” said Diment.