Campus suffers from slow Internet speeds

Sophomore Danny McCourtney plays the computer game “Call of Duty” two to four hours a week with small groups of friends. He said slow Internet speeds on campus have affected his gaming experience.

Senior Tony Forneris plays an XBOX 360 in Flynn hall. (John Kruger/TommieMedia)
Senior Tony Forneris plays an XBOX 360 in Flynn hall. (John Kruger/TommieMedia)

“I feel it definitely takes away from the online experience, if allowing it at all, because there are lag issues, finding games, your network,” he said.

But McCourtney might be part of the problem.

On-campus Internet is slow because more students are streaming videos and playing video games online than ever before, said Sam Levy, vice president of IRT.

“We’re experiencing an unprecedented increase in network demand,” Levy said. “There’s been a 40 percent increase in Internet traffic this semester.”

The increased Internet use comes mainly from video streaming and online gaming, Levy said. YouTube, Netflix and games such as “Call of Duty” all involve streaming video, which takes up large chunks of the university’s bandwidth.

The main reason “Call of Duty” has been running so slowly is because the game’s server is experiencing technical problems not associated with the St. Thomas servers, Levy said.

Junior Kevin Gause agreed that the slow Internet has been a problem when he plays “Call of Duty,” but said, “it kind of depends on which game you’re playing and where you’re playing.”

Junior Nick Lunneborg also plays the game with friends for about an hour and a half, two to three times a week. Although Internet speed has affected the game, he said, he does not really care about it that much.

Increased bandwidth use is a national trend

The increased bandwidth use at St. Thomas is part of a nationwide trend at universities as the popularity of streaming videos and online gaming increases, Levy said.

“St. Thomas’ bandwidth usage was 6 megabytes per second in 2001 and that’s gone up to 300 megabytes per second in 2010,” Levy said. “We’re pressing the limits between noon and midnight. If the total capacity exceeds 300 megabytes, the Internet service provider will not allow any more traffic.”

This is why students are seeing slower Internet speeds, and why videos take a long time to load, he said.

Murphy Online is down due to scheduled maintenance unrelated to the slow Internet speeds, Levy said.

Students can help

The university will consider buying additional bandwidth, but Levy wants students to take steps to solve the problem first.

“If we keep upping bandwidth, that keeps raising student fees,” he said. “Students need to manage their behavior.”

On the extreme edge of user behavior are a few students who take up huge chunks of the university’s bandwidth.

“We have experienced moments where 10 people were each using one percent of the university’s bandwidth,” he said. “They have multiple devices hooked up and are streaming on all of them.”

Students need to turn off Internet-capable devices when they aren’t using them, stop streaming if they aren’t watching or using the content, and stop using computers to download files illegally, Levy said.

“We want students to have what they need to complete academic work, communicate effectively and use the Internet for recreational use,” Levy said. “But we need to reach a point of equilibrium where everyone’s getting what they need without overwhelming the system.”

McCourtney said he understands.

“There’s a bunch of other little things that go into it that, just by adjusting the bandwidth, changes,” he said. “But, you know, it’s for the greater good: Studying must happen.”

Rebecca Omastiak contributed to this story.

Katie Broadwell can be reached at

22 Replies to “Campus suffers from slow Internet speeds”

  1. For the record there are no problems with the Call of Duty servers even in the email sent out by IRT they provided a link to check the status of the game servers it says everything is working just fine. So I don’t see how they are blaming Activision

  2. Seriously? The focus of this story seems to be that students are unable to play Call of Duty. OK, I realize that this seems to be an addiction for many students, but how about how I can’t connect to the Internet when I’m working on my research papers? Or when I need to send my professor an e-mail regarding classroom issues? I guess I just don’t quite understand why academic work was mentioned at almost the very end of the article. Good thing priorities are in the right order here…

  3. As the University of Saint Thomas keeps admitting larger and larger freshman classes, it logically follows that bandwidth usage is going to increase, both due to increased numbers and changing patterns of use.  It seems to me, therefore, that the responsibility to address increased network traffic lies with Saint Thomas much more than it lies with the students.  Everyone pays for internet via their room and board or technology fees (I forget which) and if students are unable to connect, have to deal with multiple dropped connections, and are faced with glacial speeds, then this is an issue that needs to be resolved quickly, especially as the internet has become such an integral part of many students’ learning experiences.  

  4. UST undergraduate enrollment, after accounting for the ever-larger freshman class, increased from 6146 to 6274 — a 128-person increase that accounts for a 2% increase in undergrad enrollment.

    Broadband use jumped 40% this fall.

    Has/should the university impose some network management policies, like lowering the priority of gaming-protocol packets in favor of standard HTTP packets, or prohibiting the use of torrents over a certain monthly cap, so that student work is assured its well-deserved priority? Better to keep fees low for all than to raise them for the sake of a few heavy users, right?

  5. First of all, the problem lies solely with UST’s bandwidth limits, not with any problems on Activision’s end (I’ve had my worst problems with Halo:Reach). IRT should just ‘man up’ and admit that it’s their problem.  Secondly, I believe they already do somewhat filter and prioritize packets.  I’ve never been able to get a torrent to attain a speed of over 10kb/s on the UST network (so either they’re filtering or I’m a bozo, not sure which).  If their technology doesn’t allow them to track and shut down the heavy users, then they will just have to fork up the extra money for more bandwith, because the trend of streaming video and online gaming is going nowhere but up.  In the meantime it’s only getting more and more frustrating for the rest of us who see the internet quality get progressively worse each night.

  6. “If we keep upping bandwidth, that keeps raising student fees,” he said. “Students need to manage their behavior.” Wait, what did he say? Last time I checked we are paying $42000 a year to go here. Good internet should be part of that package.

  7. Well this is just TERRIBLE, isn’t it, folks? Heaven forbid that we should have to cope with “lag issues” in online games.

  8. Carla,
    I don’t think you realize the seriousness of lag in online games. Let me explain. Say you’re planting at B on de_Dust2. You’re the only one left, and your team’s counting on you. You flash B, line up the perfect headshot with your AWP, and BOOM, all of a sudden, the guy’s 10 feet away and you’re dead. Or let’s say you’re defending Wintergrasp for the Alliance. You’re chasing some Horde flag-carrier, and you need to unleash your Arcane Missiles pronto. But you lag out, completely wrecking your rotation. Or let’s say you’re going for the final point on cp_badlands. The other team just blew their uber, and the point’s wide open. Your 2x capture rate as a scout is going to be just enough to win the game for your team. But then the internet goes out, and you let the team down. Your “heaven forbid” sarcasm aside, this is indeed a terrible issue, and Saint Thomas needs to fix it.

  9. I think this really comes down to an economic issue; students already pay a premium (over off-campus housing) for the convenience and community involved with living on-campus. If the quality of services provided while living on-campus (internet, cable, dining options, etc.) do not meet student expectations for what they pay, more and more will continue to migrate to off-campus housing. Considering the issues the school already has with the neighborhood and students living in it, it seems that this might be something that needs to be addressed.
    In some sense I liken this issue to alcohol, visitation, and general privacy policies in the dorms. For two years I appreciated the connection to the student community and convenience provided by on-campus housing. On the other hand, I did not appreciate the lack of privacy (i.e. public safety constantly patrolling the halls, resident hall advisors with their ear’s literally cupped to student doors listening for indiscretions) and state of generally being treated like a child (backpacks/belongings being checked when entering dorms, being told when I could/could not associate with members of the opposite sex in my room) that came with living on-campus.

  10. After two years, I decided to move to greener (and cheaper) pastures. Many students did (and continue) to do the same. If St. Thomas was like the University of Minnesota and was located near an area where off-campus housing was readily available (and did not butt up against family neighborhoods) this would not be an issue. However, that is not the case. We all hear and read about the issues the neighborhood has with students living in the community every fall and spring. If the University wants to foster a good relationship with the surrounding neighborhoods, the issues previously mentioned will need to be addressed.

  11. @ Dan: Hey Dan, when you come to a Private Catholic University, expect to face Catholic ideals and University policies…if you wanted to get the experience of a big state school, you should have went to one. 

  12. @Doug. You are a hero.

    But seriously, I understand the frustration with the disparity between our wallets and quality service. However, the outrage over gaming is unsettling to say the least. If we were all unable to access internet resources and complete assignments and the student body were up in arms, I’d be far more supportive of the outcry. But it’s frustrating that people become so easily heated over a game. It’ll all be alright in the end.

  13. 1. IRT has now fixed the issue (they added more bandwith to the dorm network).

    2. The reason the article was written about gaming was because the issue was only with gaming.  It was not an issue that would have a noticeable effect on casual web browsing or ‘academic work’.  Basically when the bandwith ran out they had to line up the traffic before sending it out.  This is typically for a second or less.  So when browsing the web you don’t even know it’s happening.  For gaming you definitely know its happening.  So for those claiming the article was ‘outrageous’ for not mentioning the negative effects on our school work…. that’s because there weren’t any.

  14. Don-
    I am going to have to disagree, because the internet connection in my residence hall in continuously going in and out, and it still is. As I’m writing this, I lost the connection and had to start all over, something that gets most annoying. While perusing Tommie Media isn’t exactly coursework, this trend is not uncommon for myself or my roommates at any time of the day, not just the “peak hours” of “noon to midnight.” To have the connection constantly going in and hour gets a little bit frustrating. 

  15. I will just say that working often in the library, particulary the other night, the interenet was extremely slow. For me and about the four other students in the vicinity, web pages took literally minutes to load and YouTube videos were impossbile to buffer. The slow interent speeds were directly interfering with academic work.

  16. @ Landon: How I felt about the school’s policies and whether or not I got the experience I was looking for is irrelevant; what is relevant is the fact that students will continue to move off-campus because of these policies (much like they might if slow internet is the only option) and that if St. Thomas wants to repair and improve their relationship with the neighborhoods surrounding the campus, issues like these will need to be addressed.

  17. For me, internet speeds have been a BIT annoying. I am not an online gamer, so I cannot really relate to their plights. It can get frustrating though when the internet is going so slow that one cannot even load a page. People may want to discount the “gamer’s” opinion because it does not seem that important, but I think that gaming is a great way to relieve (spell check on that) stress and just relax. Yes, some may be abusing the policy, but I expect UST to be able to adjust to rising usuage. It cannnot sit back and remain stagnant. Changes must be made!

  18. There are many factors in regards to what ultimately amounts to loading a webpage or a YouTube video. I’m going to trust Dan’s information and provide a few alternatives which are more likely the case.

    YouTube, is not a good metric to measure internet speed. Their videos can and often do restart in higher resolutions when going from the default to full screen. Try going back down. 

    Other webpages have their own bandwidth limits that will factor into how quickly it loads for you.

    Your browser could be outdated or mis-configured. 

    Your computer has a virus. 

    Your access to the wireless router is impaired (too far away, other electronics, etc). 

    The list goes on, but prioritized bandwidth doesn’t lend itself to making the mistakes that would characterize the problems stated. Gaming gets lower priority and suffers from it and this does not hold true for casual web browsing. 

    I’d honestly recommend finding a CS major (maybe even IRT) and asking them to take a look. I can all but guarantee at least one of the problems I mentioned is affecting your casual web browsing. 

  19. Frankly, gamers are the most likely to notice the issues with the internet, because games need to have a good internet connection, otherwise the games are hardly even worth playing. Academics are also impacted by the internet issues, especially if you have assignments on WebAssign, or have to use online resources. Even a day to day activity like checking your email becomes impossible at times due to internet problems.
    It is true that bandwidth is increasing very rapidly. However, each year, a more tech savvy class of students arrives at UST, bringing with it new gadgets that take advantage of the capabilities of the internet. UST needs to take note of this trend and act accordingly, be it purchasing more bandwidth or finding ways to limit overly heavy internet users.
    On a side note, I find it this statement humorous: “Peak hours occur from noon to midnight.” Did someone think that peak hours would occur during the 12 hour period where most students are asleep or at class (or both)?

  20. Going back to one of Dan’s statements…

    I agree that the bandwidth is an issue that St. Thomas must maintain because (unlike some who believe video games are the product of Satan), while not required, St. Thomas STRONGLY recommends that first year students live on campus. As a former resident of Ireland Hall when Halo 3 came out (3 years ago), Xbox 360 and Halo 3 swept the building. Having the ability to play a video game to relax after a long day of studying is WELL within a student’s rights. As to those who play video games for six hours a day, I personally believe it is their own choice and NOT the Universities business. If it does become “their business”, I believe the mass exodus of those living on-campus to off-campus housing will only continue.

    (To Dan’s point) At the time, my rent for the 8×12 cell on 2nd Floor North cost over $530/month (meanwhile sharing all spaces with everyone else). I now live 4 blocks east of campus while having a 4-bedroom house with two other students. I pay $500/month while having my own room (almost twice the size of Ireland Hall rooms), laundry, two dens, and a very nice kitchen.  Moving off campus (and away from some policies I wasn’t a fan of) was the best decision I have made in college, period.

  21. So i’m really the only one here that thought giving usage statistics of now vs. 11 years ago was a bit ridiculous? Did online gaming, reliable/fast online video, streaming TV and movies, 90% of what we do online now even EXIST in 2001?

    having said that… While I barely ever did any online gaming while I was at st. thomas, I can see how it’d get annoying  with the lagginess and whatnot, but I graduated last year, and never really remembered the internet at ust being THAT bad…

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