Cable cut back to allow stronger and faster internet

Elisabeth Smith | Asst. News Editor | The USD Vista

AMC, which shows the Walking Dead, was one of the channels that was cut. Photo courtesy of mezclaconfusa/Flikr

AMC, which shows the Walking Dead, was one of the channels that was cut. Photo courtesy of mezclaconfusa/Flikr

As the sixth season of “The Walking Dead” premiered on AMC this past sunday, students living on campus had to look to the internet to watch the program. Over the summer the University of San Diego’s Information Technology Services (ITS) and Residential Life reduced the amount of cable channels available from approximately 50 analog channels to 14 high-definition channels.

In an email sent out to students in July, Residential Life alerted those living on campus that the cable services were indeed reduced, due to the general dissatisfaction of the current cable service. HBO, AMC, and FX, which show the popular programs Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead, were among the channels previously offered. Residential Life partners with ITS to now provide 14 HD channels, which are mostly local.

Dayanne Izmirian, assistant dean of Residential Life, explained the reasons behind the change in cable services.

“Two years ago it came to our attention that analog cable was going away across the nation,” Izimirian said. “So we surveyed the students to see what they wanted because we were going to have to upgrade from analog regardless.”

According to John Godfrey, the associate director of Residential Life for facilities and operations, Residential Life was annually spending 130,000 dollars for the 50 analog channels.

“I’m very open with telling students that we were spending 130,000 dollars a year,” Godfrey said. “They are surprised that that number is so high, and I get even more surprised that the product was not as quality as I wanted it to be.”

According to Godfrey, the new HD package of 14 channels is at no cost to the students, so it gives Residential Life the opportunity to re-invest the savings in improved internet services. Many students do not take advantage of the cable services provided by ITS, and instead stream movies and television shows on their laptops.

“I think this is going to be the evolution of television watching on college campus,” Godfrey said. “There’s the smart TV option, apple TVs, students are hooking up HDMI cables from their laptops.”

Freshman Lauren Nowakoski believes the Wi-Fi could be stronger in the dorms.

“I just watch whatever on Netflix from my laptop, and I don’t think the wifi is even that strong,” Nowakoski said.

Nowakoski’s dissatisfaction could be eliminated as Residential Life and ITS plans to install the most up to date Aruba Wi-Fi access points in residential areas. These access points will improve connectivity and speed for users.

While ITS did lay the groundwork to improve the internet over the summer by installing Cat6a cabling for the next generation of internet, the improvement will not come until the actual routers are installed within the next year.

“We ran a significant amount of cabling through the residence halls to implement a delivery system for faster internet,” Godfrey said. “Now we haven’t put in the boxes. [ITS] is actually waiting to get the most up to date version of that box. It’s the best of the best, and it actually hasn’t even been built yet from my understanding.”

Freshman Emily Borgeson occasionally uses the TVs provided in her dorms, but not to watch cable channels.

“I do not watch TV out in my common room,” Borgeson said. “If my floor mates and I want to watch TV out there, we just plug our computers into the TV and watch Netflix. I think we would all prefer Netflix to cable.”

Freshman Helena Vasilj also relies on the internet to watch shows.

“I do not watch TV using the campus provided cable,” Vasilj said. “I watch TV from my laptop off of the Internet, so I would prefer to have a stronger Wi-Fi connection.”

Since many students already use apps like Netflix to watch shows at their own convenience, ITS has been improving the Wi-Fi connection since the beginning of 2015, increasing the bandwidth from 1 gigabit per second (GBPS) to 1.5 GBPS. One feature they installed was PeerApp, which aids in gaining efficiency with video downloads.

“PeerApp gain efficiencies with downloading video and data, so essentially if you download something and then I go to download the same thing, it is saved locally to not grind up the bandwidth,” Godfrey said. “Now if 50 devices want to download the same show, they aren’t using the bandwidth at the same time to download it.”

According to Izmirian and Godfrey, ITS will be monitoring the internet usage during peak hours of 6 p.m. to midnight to determine when it would be appropriate to upgrade the bandwidth to 2 GBPS. The Vista contacted ITS about these changes, but they declined to comment and directed all correspondence to Residential Life.

In addition to that change, Residential Life is exploring installing smart TVs in common residential spaces.

“We are exploring smart TVs, and DIRECTTV applications in common spaces,” Godfrey said. “But then of course the underlying opportunity is making sure that our internet and streaming abilities meet the needs of our students.”

Sophomore Colin Whitney does watch TV in his dorm on the cable channels.

“I normally just watch college football on Saturday and NFL on Sunday,” Whitney said. “So that’s usually CBS, Fox, NBC, and ABC.”

When Residential Life sent surveys about the cable service to students, Whitney provided his input.

“I suggested that they add ESPN to the current package, and keep the package rather than cutting it completely,” Whitney said.

According to Residential Life, students can view more traditional cable channels in the Palomar lounge in the Vistas, where DIRECTTV is provided on both televisions.

“There’s a whole DVR system in [Palomar lounge] in addition to the NFL Sunday Ticket,” Godfrey said. “That’s done with the mindset of getting students into an air conditioned space, there’s plenty of seating, and we’re building that program around some higher quality cable.”

As this transitional period between traditional cable and internet streaming continues, Residential Life and ITS are working to suit the needs of students, while students continue to rely on their laptops for entertainment.