Still Can’t Hear You: Cell Service Lacking As Clark Updates WI-FI

Picture of an I-phone and a hand holding it. As Clark improves the Wi-Fi around campus cell service is still lacking. Photo: Kristen Fowler

Getting good cell reception has been a struggle for those at Clark. In 2014, Clark negotiated with AT&T to install three cell towers on top of Penguin Union Building, but AT&T pulled out of the negotiation.

Bob Williamson, vice president of Administrative Services, said AT&T was going to rent Clark’s rooftop, but never settled on a rental fee. According to Williamson, Clark was requiring AT&T to put up a brick facade to disguise the cell towers that would dominate the skyline.

Williamson said AT&T’s reason for withdrawing was due to financial challenges and narrowing down on new projects. “It was a budget issue apparently,” Williamson said. “Hard to believe since they are a multinational corporation, but that is the only reason they gave me.”

Clark is open to having another provider come in to install cell towers, but they are not actively seeking a provider. “Nothing is in the works at this time,” Williamson said. “We recognize that the system could use some improvement but ordinarily it works okay and is pretty reliable.”

Reception at Clark varies by location, usually working better in the offices and buildings as opposed to the parking lot, according to officials.

One of the original concerns with poor cell service was campus security. Ken Pacheco, Director of Security and Safety, said they have been using radio phones that dispatch landline calls directly to the officer on duty. According to Pacheco, the radios transmit in a matter of seconds and have been working well.

“We don’t have a problem if somebody calls our line,” Pacheco said. “The problem would be for the person’s cell phone. If they call us they may not get good reception.”

As it stands nothing is going to happen soon unless a good deal arrives at the doorstep.

Good cell connection was not the only connection wanted on campus. Students also requested wireless access in their cars.

Initially Clark’s Wi-Fi was centered around student areas but has since expanded. Pat Taylor, director of IT Infrastructure and Security, replaced all two-year-old wireless access points. “After replacing our wireless network, we now have signal in almost every classroom,” Taylor said.

Over the summer, the Wi-Fi spread to all parking lots.

“We have added an external wireless access plane on top of O’Connell, Frost Arts Center and Hannah,” Taylor said. “We got the entire parking lot along Fort Vancouver Way covered.” The Columbia Tech Center campus parking lot is also covered with Wi- Fi, according to Taylor.

When it’s finished, every parking lot on campus will have Wi-Fi. Taylor anticipates it will be completed next month.

Early last year, a brand new fiber optic system was built underground.

“That put into place, underground, the capability for the institution to have the network speeds we will need for the next 25 years,” Taylor said. “The fiber that was replaced had been in the ground 22 years. So it was time for us to do that.”

Taylor said two wireless access points were installed that cover the entire sports complex.

This installation also affects Clark’s athletic field. “Before, we had to keep the stats during the game and then upload them afterwards,” said Chris Jacob, assistant athletics director. “Now with the Wi-Fi we can do live updates.” Jacob has also put in a request to stream live video.

“In order to do that we have to have access to the network,” Taylor said.

Having Wi-Fi access out on the field could possibly help coaches and students. Coaches can now look up statistics without having to go back to the OSC office and students can work on homework.

“It’s great being able to sit just about anywhere on campus and bring out your device and work,” Taylor said.

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