Restricted, Interrupted, Disconnected: A Bandwidth Tale
The internet connection over the months in NIT Rourkela has been disruptive and has been critically scrutinised by graduates of all ages. This issue has been highlighted before the Computer Centre, for still having kept the promises and actions of the previous years pending.
Being an institute of national importance, it is natural to assume that students and faculty are provided with good online connectivity services. The academic year started with slow connections and in some hostels, no connection at all. The lack of connectivity to the internet outside hostels and during the daytime forces students to rely on their personal data packages. Being in the second decade of the 21st century, having good internet speeds has become a basic necessity. With all the leading educational institutes in India and around the world upgrading to Wi-Fi, it seems very unfair that we are lagging behind.
Bearing all this in mind Team MM conducted a poll,
91% voted for the fact that it is highly unsatisfactory internet quality, accessibility is a major problem and Wi-Fi is a major requirement. Especially when there are power surges and rains which reduces the speeds and the quality of the internet greatly.
8% voted for the fact that quality and speed is decent, but the accessibility is a major concern. It should be made 24*7. It is part of the NITR policy that LAN services are not available form 8 a.m to 5 p.m because the authorities feel that students should not be distracted while they are in class.
1% voted for ‘Perfectly satisfactory’.
In a random survey conducted by team MM in the electronics department, some faculty members were asked about their experience with the LAN services, and they spoke out about their problems and also gave suggestions.
Prof. A.K. Sahoo-–
LAN services become very slow after 5 when the LAN services get activated in the hostels. It becomes very difficult to open sites which consume unnecessary time for tasks which can be completed in a few minutes. I would suggest that they should upgrade the Bandwidth so that speeds don't reduce when the users increase.
Prof. S.M Hiremath–
Speeds greatly decrease in the evening. I would suggest that the Bandwidth needs to increase for research purposes especially after 5 because this is the time most faculty members and students are done with classes.
Prof. Subrata Maiti—
LAN is not satisfactory. Especially since we are a premium institute in the country we should have satisfactory speeds as well. It does work most of the time, however it can be greatly improved. Official work gets greatly delayed especially when meeting deadlines for the submission of project proposals.
Prof. Hemant Sharma—
The LAN services are unreliable, I mostly use my personal internet to do all my official work because the speeds are very slow and it greatly hampers my work.
Team MM spoke to students regarding the same issue, and this is what they had to say:
Krishnaja Kodali ( B-Tech Second Year, ECE Department) –
Speeds are good when not many are using. It becomes difficult to watch high definition videos because they keep buffering which forces me to plan prior to when I would actually want to watch academic videos.
Neeharika Sonkara ( B-Tech Second Year, Biotechnology department) –
Speed is satisfactory. However when we have an off in between 8 a.m to 5 p.m the LAN services don't work therefore we can't watch academic videos.
Kunapuli Susmitha (B-Tech Third Year, Metallurgy Department) -
When seminars go on in BBA the internet speeds reduce. And heavy rains make the LAN stop working totally.
Bharti Pandit (B-tech Second year, Electrical department) -
LAN services are good however I faced a major problem in activation of LAN in the first year. Apart from this, I haven't had any major issues with the LAN.
The Perspective of the Institute
Team MM sat down with CK Biswas, Head of the Computer Centre, and he unveiled some clarifications on the entire internet scenario at NITR.
MM: The server has been low for quite some time. What is causing this? By when will it be sorted?
CKB: The portal is currently running down and has discontinued the internet service since Saturday. The server that was in use till date is routed to Ortel. Since Ortel has stopped services the consequences have been pretty aggravating. So currently the institute has two servers. VSNL server, however, is erratic. The intranet is expected to work fine. However, too much traffic in the network might be a reason for slow responses. There's no scope of positive communication and abated hardware issues; there are probably fewer chances of reconnecting to Ortel. VSNL has already given 10 public IPs. The scheme goes as such to let go of one service provider to grab on to other. Ortel had made a three-year contract with NIT Rourkela that's still under effect has been dropped without formal notice. Ortel seems to be undergoing some hardware issues and has been sustainable to such disruptions since years. The computer centre is over resorting to a new service provider but needs time for the slightest purchases over such platforms. Even if in the case of a temporary service provider, the sites like Monday Morning would still not be accessible because of low bandwidth. However, we are getting another line of 20 Mbps for email server within around 10 days. However, we need a minimum of 3 months time to resort to a 1Gbps connection with an annual budget of 80 lakhs per annum. The present download speed is 1 Gbps, and upload speed is 200 Mbps thus accounting for 1.2 Gbps however issues abate this efficiency down to 800 Mbps.
MM: Will there be any improvement in the bandwidth from this year?
CKB: The notice to tender a budget of 1 crore over the internet connection with a promise of 1 Gbps undisrupted connection is still under work. Processing takes time, and implementation may be bit more. Though it was promised last year, it is taking too much time because of the budget. The report having allotted the budget for the cause was claimed to be false. Ortel was subscribed 2 years back with a budget of 35 lakhs per annum but was insufficient to the present needs. The centre claims to be having a 1 Gbps line from VSNL that's unstable. We are still looking into schemes provided by other firms like Reliance, TATA and the rest.
MM: Can we expect to have Wi-fi on campus from this year?
CKB: Even though the MHRD has shortlisted the Institute for Wi-Fi, getting one is still an obscure dream to look into the cause of too much maintenance expenses. Wi-Fi can be thought of installing in notable places but not everywhere in the campus. Having already invested too much in LAN connections that are believed to be a faster mode of connection, investment in wifi was thought of as an insignificant expense with no dire necessity. On the flip side being on radar of 20-25 metres only gives you undisrupted access to Wi-Fi. This implies the installation of multiple wifi hotspots that in turn leads to extortionate expenses. The wifi provision is being prioritised sensibly to ensure at most judiciousness in using it thus restricting its availability over to director's office, Senate room, BBA, and TIIR.
Having Wi-Fi in the TIIR building is of prime importance especially after a test scheduled for FTEs ( Full Time Employee Roles) by a leading tech giant got cancelled as the LAN wasn't working at the time. Video conferencing units are being installed in the Senate room, BBA, and Director's office. Hostels can have Wi-Fi in common areas such as common rooms. However, the plan to install Wi-Fi in TIIR accounts for around 35 lakhs that's still a distant dream as it incorporates other latent expenses.
MM: Why don't we have LAN services from 8 A.M to 5.15 P.M?
CKB: The LAN provision is restricted from 8 A.M. to 5:15 P.M. as per under direct guidelines from the Senate. In the working hours, you need to access the internet from within the academic area. The students are expected to be within the academic area during that period.
MM: It was promised last year that switch boxes would be installed in hostels. Has it been done yet? And what new developments are underway?
CKB: The issue of installing switch boxes in the hostels is short-sighted as the purchase order has already been issued and will be started installed in no time. Talking of other developments; A new learning program was asked to be installed for the benefit of the graduate students. A new software is about to show up in the humanities department worth 20 lakhs. The proposed budget for the following year is of 6 crores to be revised and decided by director and finance officer to be sanctioned from MHRD.
The problems except an augmented LAN connection is likely to persist for another year. A minimum of 20 lakhs is needed for a full-fledged 1 Gbps connection, and at the end of the academic year, if there are funds left to be invested, we might consider installing Wi-Fi in the campus. There is a proposal to charge the students with 1 GB of data per day to meet their internet expenses that explains why IIT Gandhinagar has proficient internet connections when putting in contrast. Priorities are different for different institutes: NIT Rourkela's current priority being well-furnished labs, better infrastructure, and better equipment. The Institute would prefer allocating funds to the unfinished projects before major new projects can be taken up. The Golden Jubilee building is expected to be having full Wi-Fi after a year of its completion.
Since the budget for an academic year is only decided once, Wi-Fi surely can only be expected after next year. An assurance of an increase in the bandwidth has been provided, and there are chances of having a new internet service provider, so better speeds can be expected. As much as there is room for improvement, the major setback towards improvement in the internet services on campus remains the budget. With most of the money being spent only on maintenance, there is little left toward implementation of new ideas. With the whole world being connected better than ever, NITR has to up its connectivity game to keep in touch with the world.