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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

potterlakeview 2 years, 5 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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gphawk89 2 years, 5 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.

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ljwhirled 2 years, 5 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.

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a_flock_of_jayhawks 2 years, 5 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.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 5 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.

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FlawontheKaw 2 years, 5 months ago

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

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FlawontheKaw 2 years, 5 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?

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 5 months ago

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

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Alceste 2 years, 5 months ago

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

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

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Keith Richards 2 years, 5 months ago

Let's see Jack,

The service is more expensive!

The service is slower!

Wifi has not been provided in all residence halls as was promised in the contract by May 2011. It is now November!

Students are unhappy and pissed about the poor service

Faster service is available in Lawrence by local companies with local employees!

What benefit did the University really receive from this poorly thought out decision?

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Keith Richards 2 years, 5 months ago

Why didn't KU encourage and reach out to local companies to entice them to bid on this contract?

Apogee was the only positive respondent? The other firm said “Overall, the information provided to the bidders and the time allotted to prepare a proposal makes it nearly impossible to properly evaluate and price a proposal based on objective, comparable metrics,” the response read in part.

So this 'process' if you want to call it that obviously wasn't competitive if only one firm was able to bid on it.

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Jack Martin 2 years, 5 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.")

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toe 2 years, 5 months ago

The locals comtinue to roll over, donate with abandon, and mistakenly promote the university as an asset in the community. KU was an asset. it is now a government job training center.

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paperjam 2 years, 5 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.

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Alceste 2 years, 5 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?

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Joshua Montgomery 2 years, 5 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.

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Alceste 2 years, 5 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!

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