Technology Services aims to accomodate Tulane’s leading Netflix usage

Danny Fitzpatrick, Associate News Editor

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Tulane is the single largest user of Netflix in the state of Louisiana, according to Charlie McMahon, vice president for information technology and chief technology officer, based off of research conducted by the Louisiana Optic Network Initiative. 

LONI is a fiber optic network that connects Louisiana’s major research universities including LSU, Louisiana Tech, Tulane University, Southern University, UL-Lafayette, and University of New Orleans.

The high demand for Netflix streaming is taxing on the wifi network on campus. Keeping up with the demands for high-speed wireless connection is a major responsibility of the Technology Services department, McMahon said. 

“By far the most prominent use of our network is for entertainment,” McMahon said. 

Technology Services members at Tulane calculated the breakdown in percentage of network usage and determined that video streaming has become a part of student life.

McMahon said former president Scott Cowen wanted to limit student Netflix and online-gaming use to focus the bandwidth on “educational purposes.”

“I said, ‘Sure we can do that, but as soon as we do that we are not going to have any students because students expect to be able to game from their residence halls and to stream,'” McMahon said. 

Following this philosophy, there are currently no restrictions placed on Tulane students’ access to social media or video streaming while connected to eduroam.

Eduroam is not just a wireless network at Tulane. There are more than 5,500 universities across the world and 189 in the United States using the Eduroam wireless network its website states. 

Eduroam is attainable on campus through nearly 2,500 access points, which are smoke detector-sized devices located across campus. 

Each access point is designed to support about 25 people, McMahon said. The amount of people using the access point and their distance from the device affects their internet speed. 

“With any wireless networking technology the further you are from the access point or the source, the lower your speeds,” McMahon said.

While speed is variable based on factors of the network, it also depends on the device accessing the network and the users’ settings.

Lieu Tran, assistant vice president for information technology infrastructure and deputy technology officer, said students using Windows operating systems should be sure to update their drivers often to increase internet speeds. Students using Mac OS X don’t need to download the drivers individually because they are updated with operating system updates. 

“The thing about wireless technology is because it is still sort of evolving, with standards changing, so it is really important for the clients side for the laptops to keep up with that,” Lieu said. 

Tran agreed with the need for laptop users to stay up-to-date with their technology.

“A lot of speed issues are on the laptops, on how the device that people have is configured,” Tran said.

Students can receive assistance with their devices from the Technical Support and Network Operations Center if they want help on the phone, or they can ask the Technology Services workers on the Uptown campus.

“If students are having problem, they are having slow connection with their laptops, they can call the NOC, and sometimes we can help them on the phone,” McMahon said. “If we can’t, then we can contact our field support group and arrange for an appointment, so we can look at things like what drivers do they have and maybe help adjust settings to get the best performance that they can out of the laptop that they have.”

With technology evolving, the Technology Services team is planning updates in the future to the wireless infrastructure.

“We’ve just done a pretty significant upgrade to the network over the past two-and-a-half years,” McMahon said. “In the next probably two years there is going to be a new generation of wireless access points that we will start deploying. These will have the capability of handling more bandwidth, so we can get faster service over the wireless network.”