Pitt outsources dorm WiFi, will charge for faster speeds

Pitt has outsourced WiFi services for all residence halls and University-owned housing units beginning this fall, and will charge students for faster speeds.

Beginning in fall 2019, Pitt WiFi services in residence halls and University-owned housing units will be run by a third party, with a fee charged for higher speeds on more devices, according to an email sent Tuesday to students and a Thursday announcement on my.pitt.edu.

“The University recognized the need to improve Wi-Fi access in our residence halls and has worked with a third-party vendor to make enhancements to the system over the summer,” the announcement said.

MyResNet, a product of Apogee, a technology services provider for universities, will offer “reliable… guaranteed” speeds of 60 Mbps for downloads and 20 Mbps, for free per device, on up to seven devices. Students can purchase speeds of 100 Mbps for downloads and 50 Mbps for uploads, per device, for use on up to 10 devices, for $69 per semester. Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said in an email Thursday that the University will see none of the optional $69 fee.

Zwick said Thursday that the migration was a result of feedback and CSSD Help Desk requests from students over the past few years. He said students who have previously used a wired connection for Internet access, using an Ethernet port, can still do so by calling the CSSD Help Desk at 412-624-4357. He was unable to make a representative from CSSD available for questions.

CSSD, Pitt’s IT department, previously provided free WiFi services at all residence halls and University-owned housing units for 300 Mbps per wireless access point, which multiple students’ devices would connect to. 

CSSD will still operate the free Wireless-PittNet and Wireless-PittNet-Fast WiFi networks at all academic buildings, which offer speeds of up to 300 Mbps per wireless access point. In an FAQ tweeted out Friday evening clarifying information about the new service, Pitt IT described MyResNet as being a significant improvement over PittNet in residence halls since PittNet Wi-Fi speeds varied depending on how many other devices were connected to an access point at that time.

“As more devices connected, less bandwidth was available per device. MyResNet provides a consistent wireless experience per device — on up to seven devices per resident,” Pitt IT said.

Some students were outraged at the move by the University, wondering why tuition — which was just increased by as much as 7% for some students — as well as room and board fees, did not fully cover WiFi costs. Every semester, students pay a mandatory $175 computer and network services fee, which the University uses for “upgrading and maintaining the University’s computer systems, equipment, and facilities,” according to the Student Payment Center.

Dighan Kelly, a rising senior urban studies, French and English triple major, said she was shocked when she heard about the changes being made to the WiFi.

“I was honestly very flabbergasted that Pitt thought that making WiFi on a paid scale at a university was a good idea. But also thought that that would go over well with students,” Kelly said. “Especially after this giant tuition increase.”

Twitter user @mikeytheasian said he was upset the University downgraded the speeds available to students, and will now be charging for speeds that are less than what was available before.

“If you’re gonna charge extra for a service, fine – keep what you already have (good) and charge extra for improvements on top of that,” the user said in a tweet. “Don’t cut back on service, charge the same for it, and have the nerve to ask for extra for worse service.”

Pitt IT also stated in the FAQ tweeted out Friday evening that the basic level of service offered by MyResNet “should be more than adequate for most uses—including web browsing and streaming.” The FAQ also asserted that MyResNet speeds should not decrease as more devices connect.

“The infrastructure is robust enough that those speeds should remain consistent regardless of how many other devices are connected at a given time or location,” Pitt IT said.

Zwick said students are provided the basic MyResNet plan for free, and that the $175 per-semester fee, which has not risen since the 2010-11 school year, provides students with access to a wide variety of software at below-market prices.

The change also caught some students by surprise because the email notifying them about the MyResNet migration was sent two weeks before most students are set to move in, and the migration had not been discussed publicly before an announcement on its completion.

Zwick said the undertaking to replace wireless access points in 2,900 rooms across Pitt’s 38 residence halls began the day after move-out in April so the service would be available by move-in in the fall.

“We announced the service early to allow students to register their devices in advance so they’ll be able to connect upon arrival to campus,” he said.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to better reflect that the WiFi speeds provided by MyResNet are offered on a per-device basis, as opposed to the per-access point speeds provided by the Wireless-PittNet and Wireless-PittNet-Fast networks. It was also updated to include statements from Pitt IT. 

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