Missed (WiFi) Connection: Meet Mason’s I.T. Department

By: Courtney Boone

If you’re a Mason student, chances are you’ve had the moment where you debated chucking your laptop out the window in pure anger. Mason-Secure refuses to connect and you have a midnight deadline for your final paper.

SPOILER: it doesn't have to be this way! Save your laptop, your grades and your sanity by getting to know the IT department and how they want to help fix all of your connectivity struggles.Via Giphy

I asked Lauren Reese, Communications and Marketing Director I for Mason ITS, about everything you need to know:

What is the IT department responsible for on campus?

LR: “Information Technology Services (ITS) is Mason’s central IT organization responsible for providing IT support to the Mason community via the ITS Support Center and IT services including the IT Security Office”

The ITS department is also responsible for those TV’s you see around campus, your student email and free Office products you get as a perk for being a student and tech support in the classroom. They come to save the day when you’re professor can’t get the projector to turn on or basically everything that can go wrong has most definitely gone wrong. They also work on Blackboard and Collaborate issues! Someone buy the ITS staff a coffee or some cupcakes, it sounds like they need it.

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Why has the Wi-Fi had connectivity issues this semester?

(Yes, they are aware the internet has been a problem this year and I promise they are trying to fix it.)

LR: There were two incidents that caused the majority of the residence hall issues recently. The first was a network infrastructure problem in which a failing router caused about half of the wireless access points (specifically model 702w access points which are inside residence hall rooms) in Blue Ridge, Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads (much of the Academic 7 residence hall area) to be affected and users unable to connect their devices. Access points are networking hardware devices that allow a Wi-Fi device to connect to a wired network. This issue was fully addressed and the faulty equipment was replaced.  There is a total of 976 access points (model 702w) deployed in rooms in these particular residence halls at this time. The second issue is internal software bugs in the 702w model of access points used at Mason. ITS has been working diligently with Cisco to rectify the issues with this model. Cisco developers have fixed one bug thus far, but one remains that is causing certain devices to fail authentication. Currently, a proposed fix is being tested to ensure it works with little to no impact to our customers and will be pushed out during the summer.”

Hear that, collegiettes? Things should be running smoother after summer break!Via Giphy

                          Related: I Spent One Month Without My Laptop and This is What I Learned

What can students do to improve their connection?

LR: “Students should make sure all of their devices are updated with the latest drivers and always connect to the Wi-Fi via MASON-Secure. If you have issues, please contact the Support Center by emailing [email protected] or calling 703-993-8870. The Support Center is located in Innovation Hall, Room 226 for walk-in support. During the school year, ITS also has support kiosks located in the Johnson Center (near the Information Desk) and Merten Hall for on-the-spot Wi-Fi and IT support. When contacting the Support Center, make sure a ticket is submitted so engineers can monitor your situation and ensure your specific issue is resolved. When a ticket is being created, students should provide their direct phone numbers (not a parents’ home phone), residence hall building, room number and specific problem."

"ITS relies on the partnerships we build with our customers. This includes two-way communication in which we report issues to the Mason community as we become aware of them, but also customers alert us when they run into problems. Customers who provide specific details about where they are experiencing Wi-Fi issues allow ITS to provide the best support. If and when customers receive emails from the Support Center or ITS Engineers a response is requested so we can ensure the issue has been resolved to the student’s satisfaction or we are aware if the issue requires further addressing.”

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What about mobile devices?

LR: “Wi-Fi does not address issues with cell phone carrier data networks. Mobile devices with Wi-Fi capability should be able to connect to Mason's Wi-Fi network. ITS recommends students keep their devices’ operating systems up-to-date.”

You know how you always click “update later” or “remind me tomorrow?” Yea. That may be causing most of the issues. Update your phone, people! Consider it like a night of face masks, takeout and Netflix-binging. Even your phone needs time to recuperate and be it’s best self.  Via Giphy

 What is the long-term plan for the Wi-Fi issues on campus, especially as the student population grows?

LR: “Over the last 5 years, ITS worked to install more Wi-Fi access points for density coverage— to provide better coverage for more people and more devices. We expect this to continue as the university grows. Next steps include installing access points for outdoor coverage and adding monitoring and analysis systems to detect and respond to problems before they are reported to the Support Center. That said, ITS depends on the university community to engage with us if and when problems occur. Without that partnership, customers may face problems we are not aware are occurring, particularly difficult infrastructure problems. The sooner a user reports an issue, the sooner help can be dispatched.”

Is there anything additional you’d like to share with the student population about Mason networks?

LR: “ITS needs your help in communicating issues and appreciates our customers’ time to work one-on-one and allow us the opportunity to resolve your Wi-Fi or network issues.  The best results happen when ITS is able to work directly with students and often when we help one customer, this allows ITS to discover and fix network problems that help many other customers.”

Put the reporting info in your phone, collegiettes! Be sure to report connectivity issues, otherwise the IT department can’t help!

****email [email protected] or call 703-993-8870 to report connectivity issues****Via Giphy