University dormers get Internet upgrade

by Chesca Avenido

In preparation for the full implementation of face-to-face classes next semester, the University of the Philippines Los Baños – Office of Student Housing (UPLB-OSH) is expanding its Wi-Fi access in university dorms by installing 46 hotspots and 45 switches by the last week of November.

Honey Faith Evangelista, dorm manager of UPLB-Women’s Residence, the study hall and veranda are the only areas where students can have access to a Wi-Fi connection. 

“Hindi lang siguro walo, baka sampo, around that number” when asked about the number of Wi-Fi routers per building in an interview on November 16.   

Interview with Ms. Honey Faith Evangelista, Dorm Manager – UPLB Women’s Residence Hall (Photo by Zcyrel Barola)

Since the beginning of the current semester, residents of university dorms have experienced difficulties in accessing internet connections for their online classes. “Nung mga first few months, nung September October talaga, ‘di talaga kami straight nakaka online class sa loob ng room, kailangan naming bumaba dito sa lobby” said university dormer Mel Jean Quiatchon.

Due to poor connections on the campus, some dormers have resorted to other options. “Kapag wala masyado [stable internet connection] baka pumunta na lang sa learning hubs or sa library” said Ericka Renee Langit, also a university dormer.

The Wi-Fi extension project was originally proposed in August 2019 by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs (OVCCA) under the then UPLB Housing Office, according to Engr. Marc Immanuel G. Isip, Office of Student Housing (OSH) director. However, the procurement of materials needed for the project did not start until earlier this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The said project aims to install additional access points and switches in all residence halls under the Office of Student Housing except for the New Dormitory which is currently under renovation. This includes the International House, Women’s Residence Hall, Men’s Residence Hall, VetMed Residence Hall, ATI-NTC Residence Hall, Forestry Residence Hall, Makiling Residence Hall, and New Forestry Residence Hall. 

In an interview on November 18, Emergrace Puhawan, UPLB Information Technology Center (UPLB-ITC) Network Administrator, confirmed that a total of 46 WiFI access points and 45 switches will be distributed among the said residence halls. 

“Yung bawat access point ay kaya mag accommodate ng 30 users” said Ms. Puhawan when asked about the capacity of the access points. On the other hand, Wi-Fi switches will be used for wired connection and can accommodate at most 1 GB of bandwidth per unit. 

Evangelista said they are looking forward to making use of the project by November 30 or early December. Earlier this week, the UPLB-ITC office already received the access points and switches. Ms. Puhawan mentioned that their team plans to deploy the units by the last week of November after the contractor has released the list of needed units per residence hall.  

When asked about the duration of the project, Puhawan said, “Depende kasi sa dorms. Aayusin nila ‘yung pag-install ng cables. Kasi hindi siya ‘yung tipong pwede mo lang basta ilagay. Structured cabling kasi ‘yung ginagawa nila so depende ‘yon sa contractor”.  

Most of the units will be installed inside dorm rooms to expand the current reach of internet connection. 

Meanwhile, university dormer Dennise April Butardo is hopeful that the said project will ease her struggles in attending online classes. “Minsan namimiss ko na rin yung mga classes ko, online classes, and nadidisconnect rin ako kaya mabuti talagang maimprove yung paglalagay ng internet.”

With the supervision of the UPLB-ITC, the installation of Wi-Fi access points and switches is expected to be finished before the start of the second semester A.Y. 2022-2023. 

The Wi-Fi expansion project was the administration’s response to the growing concern of university dormers regarding the internet connectivity issues at residence halls, especially with the implementation of online and hybrid learning modes. As per Engr. Isip, these issues are characterized by low connectivity and dead spots in the residence halls.