Archive for Friday, November 4, 2011

Firm working to improve Internet speed for students

Kansas University sophomore Joni Hudson, of Overbrook, works on homework at the computer lab in the Kansas Union. KU students are pushing to improve wireless Internet access on campus, and administrators are preparing a plan to make it happen.

Kansas University sophomore Joni Hudson, of Overbrook, works on homework at the computer lab in the Kansas Union. KU students are pushing to improve wireless Internet access on campus, and administrators are preparing a plan to make it happen.

November 4, 2011, 12:54 a.m. Updated November 4, 2011, 10:08 a.m.

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Kansas University is working with an outside company that provides Internet service to its student housing to boost its basic-tier Internet speeds after student complaints.

KU switched this semester from providing its own in-house Internet service for university housing, ResNet, to an outside contractor, Apogee, a company based in Austin, Texas, that provides Internet services to a variety of college campuses across the country.

As part of the contract, Apogee provides Internet services to KU residence halls, scholarship halls and on-campus apartments. It does not receive money from KU, and relies on fees from student users to pay for the service.

With KU’s old system, students paid $98 per semester for Internet access, but didn’t have any restrictions on bandwidth, which could be variable depending on who else was trying to access the system, said Diana Robertson, KU’s director of student housing.

“They essentially had one large pipe of bandwidth going out” to everyone who was using the service, she said. The first ones who grabbed the bandwidth got it.

Under the new system, Apogee offers three tiers of service. The basic tier costs the same as the old ResNet, $98 per semester. Two other tiers of service cost $138 and $158 per semester. The upper tiers provide 10 megabits per second and 15 megabits per second of bandwidth. It’s the basic level of service, however, that’s been the issue for some students. Apogee had been offering one and two megabits per second at its lowest tier of service, but university officials are in discussions with the company to examine adjusting those levels.

“That’s an ongoing conversation,” Robertson said. “The key is to establish that appropriate baseline for that service.”

Mitchell Cota, a freshman from Overland Park, said he subscribed to the basic level of service this semester, but he usually opts to use his cellphone as a mobile hotspot for better Internet service so he doesn’t have to use the slower Apogee service.

“If I did, I’d be sitting there for a half-hour to watch a YouTube video,” said Cota, who lives in Ellsworth Hall. He said he planned on dropping the service from Apogee in the future.

He’s not the only one who’s complained.

Both KU and Apogee say they’ve heard complaints about the basic levels of service, and KU usually directs students to a 24-hour customer service line from Apogee.

KU decided to go with an outside contractor because ResNet’s infrastructure was essentially unchanged from its inception and needed to be improved, said Jack Martin, a KU spokesman. As part of the contract, Apogee will provide infrastructure improvements that would have needed to be paid by KU internally. Neither KU nor Apogee provided a specific dollar figure for the planned improvements, which include a significant upgrade to the infrastructure in Stouffer Place apartments and wireless capability in the residence halls. An Apogee official said the total cost for the improvements would be “in the millions of dollars.”

Apogee, which has a contract to provide Internet service through 2018, was one of two bidders for the service, said Barry Swanson, KU’s interim associate vice provost for operations, who was serving as the university’s director of purchasing when the contract was up for bid. Robertson said Apogee was the most responsive bidder to KU’s proposal.

This story has been updated to reflect the following correction: A story Friday incorrectly expressed the rate of speed of bandwidth connections in Kansas University student housing. The rates of speed should have been expressed in megabits per second.

Comments

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

1meg down? Once again, Kansas, and more specifically the "University" of Kansas demonstrates it's 2nd or 3rd tier status. It's all about the money: There is plenty of money to pay the talking heads like Vice-Provost (whatever that is) Barry Swanson $112,746.93 per annum (per http://kansasopengov.org/StateGovernment/SGPayGrid/tabid/1553/Default.aspx ); and even good ole Diana Robertson, KU’s director of student housing is raking in $114,400.00 per annum to degrade services (again, per http://kansasopengov.org/StateGovernment/SGPayGrid/tabid/1553/Default.aspx ) and even a "KU spokesman", Jack Martin (what's a "spokesman" actually do for $81,272.30 per annum? Spoke???; data obtained from, again, http://kansasopengov.org/StateGovernment/SGPayGrid/tabid/1553/Default.aspx ) is in on the gravy train; probably pulling in 50megs down in a phat office, feet up on the desk, yakking away on SKYPE.

Alcest gets better than 4megs down in the jungles of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and well.......get the picture?

These articles are amusing!

ljwhirled 3 years, 10 months ago

Not so funny. Why on earth would you bring in an out of state company to provide service?

They don't own any local infrastructure, they don't have a local office, they don't have any local employees. This is just stupid.

This is what I mean about KU core dollars being sucked out of the economy. If we continue to send the student's rent, retail and now utility dollars out of state we are going to end up with no economy at all.

Where are the jobs? Aparantly in Texas where Apogee just spent $20,000,000 on the naming rights to the University of North Texas stadium: http://www.apogee.us/apogee-expands-investment-in-the-university-of-north-texas-campus/

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

ljwhirled:

LOOK at how much money, alone, the three people who pimp for KU are getting paid. The three combined are over $300,000.00 once benefits are factored in.

The fix is in. The game is rigged. Give up. Just enjoy it for the amusement....because that's all that it's good for.

Joshua Montgomery 3 years, 10 months ago

The University sent out invitations to eight companies, all of which were out of state. No Kansas companies were invited to bid on the project.

Only one bidder submitted a responsive proposal, Apogee.

Yesterday, the City of Lawrence came out with a study that indicated every ResNet dollar sent out of the city, costs local merchants $0.67 in additional revenue. Every job sent out of the community costs our local job market an additional 1.129 jobs.

http://www.kuwifi.org/city_impact_analysis.pdf

When you combine these factors with our internal estimate of the value of this contract ($34M & 11 Jobs), the total cost of outsourcing this contract to the local economy is $57M and 23 jobs.

Recently, our company has asked for equal access to the ResNet facilities to provide a competing service, however, so far the administration has resisted the idea.

If the University is going to change the service and the pricing, they should engage in an open bidding process that includes local companies.

Bottom line? We’ve got fiber in the area that will allow us to deliver a fiber based service that brings up to 10GBps of service to the University. Apogee doesn’t.

If the University is willing to give us a chance, we can do a great job on this site, the same way we do a great job at Sigma Nu, Delta Upsilon, Kappa Sigma, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and a number of other Greek houses that are connected to our fiber network.

The University Daily Kansan has written several articles on the subject that are worth reading.

ResNet Outsourced to Apogee http://www.kansan.com/news/2011/sep/20/resnet-outsourced-apogee/

Local Provider Appeals to City http://www.kansan.com/news/2011/oct/25/internet-provider-appeals-city/

Kansan Editorial About ResNet Service http://www.kansan.com/news/2011/nov/02/editorial-campus-internet-provider-apogee-disappoi/

We would love to have the opportunity to compete head-to-head with Apogee on the ResNet system. This would give students choices, force both competitors to innovate and lower prices.

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 10 months ago

Your argument would be more persuasive if you had actually submitted a bid instead of complaining after the fact. As I understand it, the bidding process was a typical open process but only one company responded. It's really not KU's fault that only one company bid and that doesn't make the process less open unless you are suggesting KU didn't follow proper procedure. Further, as I read the study, it sounded like they were unable to make any sort of accurate appraisal. Lastly, I don't really understand why people complain that a KU official is posting on here as part of his official duties (I assume). KU has long suffered from an inability to communicate in any coherent fashion so I view the fact that someone is paying attention to the forums as a positive.

Joshua Montgomery 3 years, 10 months ago

Glock, you can't submit a proposal, if you are not invited to bid. KU invited 8 companies to bid, none from the State of Kansas.

In addition, we were told on March 8, 2007 by IT director John Louis, “The easiest thing for us to do is to use existing state contracts for stuff and for the design and installation rather than go through a lengthy RFP/Bid process.”

And again on March 12, 2007 by Associate Director Travis Berkley “As Mr. Louis indicates, we are not using RFP’s to complete this project.”

KU's stance is that despite these written remarks from IT staff members, and the fact that 8 companies were invited to bid the project, we should have been watching the website for a possible RFP.

Anyway, that is "spilt milk under the bridge". What is done, is done.

Our goal now is to get access to the system on par with Apogee. We would be more than happy to compete with them for student dollars.

All we want is equal access.

If they are so confident about their service, why not let us compete head to head? What does the University have to lose? Competition breeds excellence.

Worst case? I look the total fool and our service doesn't work. University staff can point and laugh at the little local company that couldn't.

Best case? The students get better services at a lower prices.

The only thing the University has to lose is face, and based on recent articles in the UDK, that is already long gone.

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 10 months ago

Didn't you provide free service to the occupy Lawrence people?

Joshua Montgomery 3 years, 10 months ago

No, but we did build out coverage at South Park so they could use the accounts they paid for. They had to purchase accounts to use the service.

Partly we did it it to sign up more paying members of OWS. Partly it was to provide me with service while I am watching my kids play at South Park.

We also installed coverage at Ryan Grey Park for the same reason. It means I can work while watching the kids.

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

Why are students who reside in residence halls not screaming out the windows that the building they reside in; pay good money to reside in; has no internet service?

From what I just read from the links provided above, there are dorms with no internet in the living areas? WTF??? Ya have to go to the lobby to get 1meg down?!

Why aren't these children hollering to the high heavens via their dorm president and other "system in place" people....or just pitching a beef to these highly paid dolts living the good life, suckling at the breast of the "University family"? Incredible.

And people wonder why Kansas City, Kansas got that wonderful, FAT, Google pipe?

MarcoPogo 3 years, 10 months ago

Why should the university bend over backwards to retrofit all of their dorms to provide access to some flim-flam-flub like the internet that is just a passing fad? The thing will never catch on!

ljwhirled 3 years, 10 months ago

Probably because they don't think there is anything they can do about it. The University is pretty intractable on issues like this.

Look at how stubborn they are about sticking with their current vendor.

I'd rather see the story say "University fires vendor and seeks better solution for Internet access", but of course that would mean staff admiting that they made a mistake.

We all know that if you have PHD. or JD. after your name, you never make a mistake.

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

The obvious answer here is that Apogee expects students to purchase the higher speed connection(s). Evidently, however, even those are not reliable.

1 meg down MIGHT be sufficient for basic text laden email and web pages, but not much else given the java encoding, flash, blah, blah, blah that is the internet anymore. Too, the ability to video conference with Mommy and Daddy back home is very restricted by a 1meg down (article doesn't provide data on upload speeds, but Alceste surmises they're probably around 250k, if that...which is horrendous.).

Nope: The whole deal is about a bunch of slouches "employed" by KU who are given far too much money for what they do (errr....do NOT) and are merely nickle and dime "deal makers". $110+k per annum to look after a bunch of beat up old dorm rooms? Good grief.

Alceste does NOT work for Montgomery or even know the boy.

dogsandcats 3 years, 10 months ago

I had internet in my dorm room in the mid 90s. Get with the 21st century, KU!

Jack Martin 3 years, 10 months ago

There is Internet access in every residence hall room, it is the wifi rollout that is ongoing.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

Back when I lived in the dorms, we didn't have no stinkin' Wi-Fi. Didn't have Internet at all. Had to walk down the hill to go telnet in and read alt.bigfoot. Those were the days.

paperjam 3 years, 10 months ago

"10 megabytes per second and 15 megabytes per second of bandwidth"

I think you actually mean megabits per second (Mbps). A megabit is 1/8th the size of a megabyte, so the difference is substantial. Megabytes per second is also abbreviated differently (MBps or MB/s). Maybe I'm just being pedantic.

ahyland 3 years, 10 months ago

You're right! I updated the story. Thanks.

Andy Hyland KU reporter

ljwhirled 3 years, 10 months ago

The University does support the community........the community of Austin Texas, home to Apogee Telecom, Inc.

They also (apparently) support the University of North Texas, home to Apogee Stadium.

Jack Martin 3 years, 10 months ago

Working with Apogee the speeds have already been increased, and we will continue to work with them to ensure students' Internet needs are met.

The contract was awarded through an open, competitive bidding process - the type of process Mr. Montgomery is now seeking to circumvent. Apogee has made and will continue to make a significant infrastructure investment at KU. Also, contrary to an earlier comment, Apogee has hired locally for installation and ongoing customer service.

Finally, I would encourage you to read the City's study as it does not say what Mr. Montgomery claims it does when it comes to this specific project.

(And Alceste, I use a standing desk so it would be pretty difficult for me to kick up my feet on it, even if I did have Skype on my computer to be "yakking away on.")

hawkchalk891 3 years, 10 months ago

This just highlights how much the University needs to look at providing competition.

The service has sucked all semester, but the second a competitor comes onto the scene, Apogee scrambles to improve service.

Imagine my surprise.

I wonder what would happen if the University let competitors to provide service?

Why is the University trowing up road blocks on this? Why not allow local competitors on campus? What does the University have to lose?

Something smells fishy on the hill.

ljwhirled 3 years, 10 months ago

By "open process" you mean a process that received only one responsive bid?

" Robertson said Apogee was the only responsive bidder to KU’s proposal."

Sounds real open and competitive to me.

Sounds like you got a great deal for the kids too. They really seem to be enjoying the results.

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

You have a choice in desk style? What a deal.

I note you don't deny gravy train status, however.

Wonderful. Simply wonderful that KU "spokespeople" are paid to post on LJWorld.com message boards on state time using, undoubtedly state resources; having the temerity to note "....Working with Apogee the speeds have already been increased...." when in fact they have not....unless they were worse than 1meg down. >>>????

I just came from a Residence Hall lobby and using http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest was GROSSLY amused at the download speed of 1.1meg and that was a CAT5 cable!

I suspect JackMartin_KUCommunications has put in the paper work for a stand by sit down desk....'cuz he prolly needs to sit down....put the DunceCap on....and go for a time out.....

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

$81,272.30 per annum for this guy? (Who says fairy tales don't come true?)

http://communications.ku.edu/staff.shtml

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

You know what would be interesting information? How much Jack Martin makes. Anybody have that?

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

$81,272.30 per annum in 2010 for one Jackson Martin who I surmise is Jack Martin. But in 2009 he only got $77,549.94. Part of the "no skin in the game types" that the logal blogger "Moderate" warbles on about. I have no clue how someone.....even with Jack Martin's apparent youth could possibly survive on such a pittance. It reads that they don't even let him sit down....compelling him to stand at his desk a la Robert "Bob" Cratchit.

http://kansasopengov.org/StateGovernment/SGPayGrid/tabid/1553/Default.aspx

I am no ageist.....but golly gee whiz...... check it out:

http://communications.ku.edu/staff.shtml

Only $81,272.30 in 2010. That bad place.....developing nation speed internet for students and low wages for a "spokesman". Incredible.

FlawontheKaw 3 years, 10 months ago

How much does Jack Martin make? Does he make a mess? And when he makes a mess who has to clean it up?

FlawontheKaw 3 years, 10 months ago

Wow a standing desk. War monger Donald Rumsfeld also preferred a standing desk. What is your point? Making an exit quickly?

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

So if anybody out there could find Jack Martin's salary, I think that would be something that would be a relevant post.

MarcoPogo 3 years, 10 months ago

And while they're at it, they should get the name of Doug Compton's attack zebra.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 3 years, 10 months ago

Several years ago, I heard that all of the res halls had 1G wiring to each room and a 10G backbone. I guess that wasn't true, then or now since the article above states that millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements would be required at the res halls at the university's expense.

ljwhirled 3 years, 10 months ago

They do. Apogee now has exclusive access to the infrastructure that our tax dollars paid to install.

Unfortunately, Apogee doesn't have a local fiber plant to connect it to. Nor do they have local offices or local technicians.

They are creating artificial scarcity to run up prices for the students.

Apogee wins, students lose, the local economy loses, local providers lose and (most importantly to me) Kansas taxpayers foot the bill.

ljwhirled 3 years, 10 months ago

The only reason they are even attempting to fix the problem is that Montgomery is banging on the University's door with a sledge hammer.

That proves his point. The best way to improve service for students is to bring in competition.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

Now this comment seemed to get at the issue, but according to one of the stories Montgomery cited http://www.kansan.com/news/2011/sep/20/resnet-outsourced-apogee/ the concerns are from students, not from him.

According to the story Montgomery posted, KU is responding to students, not to him.

ljwhirled 3 years, 10 months ago

If the University was really responding to the student's needs, they would use the best service available.

According to Netindex.com, that is definitely not Apogee. http://www.netindex.com/download/4,2292/Lawrence/

I think this article was prompted by Jack Martin so University staff can CYA. They are basically saying "we know there is a problem, we are on top of it"

If Montgomery wasn't charging after it, they would still be sitting on their collective thumbs. He might not make a lot of friends, but Montgomery seems to get stuff done.

gphawk89 3 years, 10 months ago

Last time I used a KU computer lab was probably the one in Fraser Hall. I remember there being about a 10 second delay between typing a character on the keyboard and it actually displaying on the terminal. If you were a good typist, you could type in several lines of code then sit there for a while and wait for it to show up on the little green screen. Kind of frustrating because we were only allotted a little time - maybe two hours - to remain logged into the VAX. One meg speeds would have been a delight. Heck, 10K speeds would have been plenty back then.

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

Were there dial phones then....or did they all still have a crank and "Martha" the operator to connect you to Aunt Sara?

potterlakeview 3 years, 10 months ago

Our purchasing department made a mistake. I wonder how long it will take them to correct the problem?

It sounds like a contract that was streamlined to a specific company. It happens all the time at KU and at other universities I've worked at. Looks like they got caught this time.

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