Iowa City Stories

May 14, 2010

The University of Iowa’s Network (ResNet) and Fiber Optic

Students living in residence halls at the University of Iowa have it good when it comes to the speed of their internet.

While non-University residents may have to pay an extra-fee to receive ultra-high speed internet, the University provides its own network for students living in residence halls, and at all University computer locations.  What’s best is the charge is included with tuition.

Ashley Stover, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa remembers when she moved into the dorms her freshman year and booted up her computer.

“It was so much faster than what I had back home,” said Stover.  “My parents the old-school dial up modem, so it was really slow.  Not to mention it tied up the phone line too, so if I wanted to talk to my boyfriend on the phone, it couldn’t be while anyone else was on the computer.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was I got in trouble for downloading songs, but I can’t blame the University for that one.  I have since started to pay for my music when I got iTunes.”

Rules and Acceptable Policies

A row of computers at the ITC in the Main Library connected to ResNet

While the University network may be extremely fast, there are strict guidelines that users must follow when connecting to the network.  According to the University housing website, the following rules are the acceptable use policy.

  • Student is responsible for all activity originating from this connection. Student must take reasonable precautions to prevent unauthorized use by others of this connection, and his/her accounts, programs, or data.
  • Students should not engage in activities that consume excessive amounts of network bandwidth.
  • Student must not modify or extend Residence Hall network services and wiring. This applies to all network wiring, hardware, and in-room jacks. The only device you can connect is a personal computer. You may not connect servers of any type, hubs, or network printers.
  • Residence Hall connections are provided for individual use only. Student may not create accounts on his/her computing system that provide campus network access for anyone else.
  • Residence Hall connections are for University-related activities only. Student may not conduct a commercial business via the Residence Hall connection.
  • Student may not run sniffers or any other software or hardware designed to intercept packets or to disrupt the security or operation of the campus network.
  • Student may not participate in illegal activities such as software piracy—either the distribution of copyrighted software or illegal attainment of software or other copyrighted materials—from the Residence Hall connection.
  • Student may not host chat lines from computers connected to this network.

Capable of high speeds

According to Jay Ford, Senior Network Engineer of ITS-Telecommunication & Network Services, the network is capable of some extreme speeds.

“I’ll give you four different scenarios and each one has a different speed capability,” said Ford.  “We have speeds up to 10 Gbps externally (to Chicago and Kansas City.)  10 Gbps mesh within the core of the campus network among key routing locations and data centers.  1 Gbps to and within most buildings, and 1 Gbps to most user jacks.”

With speeds this fast, it comes as no surprise that fiber optic technology is utilized within the network.  I discussed earlier how fiber optic works, and how local internet companies are implementing fiber optic, and the University is no different.

“We already use fiber heavily within the network,” said Ford.  “Fiber to edge user devices is not required because we can provide 1 Gbps on copper, which is much cheaper and better supported in user equipment.”

Ford also added that the University’s network is often times faster than Mediacom.

“Our standard user service is 1 Gbps, full-duplex and symmetric,” said Ford.  “Service offered by ISPs like Mediacom and Qwest is usually in the 3-20 Mbps range, usually full-duplex but often slower in one direction than the other.”

However the University does not plan charge users andoffer ResNet as an option for internet service to non-resident hall students like Mediacom does.

Kirk Baruth, Communcations Specialist at the University IT services, said the University pondered the idea, but decided against it.

“We’ve pondered it in the past on a few occasions,” said Baruth, “But delivering network connectivity to off-campus residences gets pretty far afield from our core mission. Instead, we maintain sufficient external connectivity so we don’t have a problem reaching ISPs that do provide residential access.”

While students at the university are not able to access the internet if they are not in a residence hall or the university-based computer, for those that do use the network on a daily basis, the speed of the network is on par and higher than anything else they can get for the price.

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