Sophomore Molly Gherini and Nico Burns weren't able to access Netflix during their free period since the site is blocked.

New Wi-Fi policies unpopular among students; some say that newly blocked sites didn’t improve speed of Internet

It’s the beginning of a long period for teacher Patricia Fels’s AP English class, and the students are excitedly settling into their seats.

Fels is showing them a live performance of “All My Sons,” the play they just finished reading in class.

She presses the play button, and a loading bubble appears.

Ten minutes later, the play is still loading.

After wasting half an hour of class trying to get the play to start, she gives up and jumps to what she had planned for the next day.

This sort of problem is very common at SCDS. According to a Nov. 10 poll, more than half of the high-school students said they are dissatisfied with the Internet speed on campus.

However, Tom Wroten, director of technology, said he’s unaware of the students’ complaints.

In fact, just three weeks ago, he added a second Internet service provider (ISP) to the network, increasing speed and minimizing outages.

“It has been a problem in the past that when Comcast (the original ISP) went down, our Internet went down,” Wroten said.

“(With two ISPs) when Comcast goes down, our other ISP takes over,” Wroten said.

Wroten explained that the more than 500 devices (including approximately 400 school-administered devices) connecting to the network every day are the cause of the low speeds.

According to Wroten, the school is at an “inflection point,” where it would cost significantly more money for a marginal increase in speed.

Yet there is another problem with the school’s Internet – blocked sites.

In the same poll, 77 percent of students said they’re unhappy with the number of blocked sites at the school, which increased just a month ago, and they’re doing something about it.

The newly purchased firewall, the program that blocks websites on a server, has blocked many more sites than before, including student favorites Twitter and Snapchat.

“Sometimes I want to go on Youtube (like on Khan Academy) and it’s blocked,” a junior said. “So I just use a VPN to go through (the firewall).”

A VPN is a virtual private network that masks the real IP address of a computer, allowing it to bypass a firewall. In a recent poll, 30 percent of high-school students said they use VPNs.

While the chance that the speed will increase soon doesn’t look optimistic, Wroten said that he was more positive about the possibility of unblocking more sites.

Wroten said he has been communicating with faculty with regard to the firewall and also asking students for their input.

The reason for the blocked sites, according to Wroten,  is that the new firewall has 78 categories it uses to block sites, as opposed to the previous firewall’s 50.

On Nov. 18, a survey was emailed to the high-school students, concerning their opinions about the firewall.

The survey allowed students to select from a list of 78 categories which should be blocked. Categories included obvious terms, like “Adult and Pornography” and “Nudity,” as well as surprising ones, like “Fashion and Beauty,” “Motor Vehicles,” and “News and Media.”

 Other choices were simply confusing: “Legal,” “Peer to Peer,” “Bot Nets” and “Dynamically Generated Content.”

Wroten was adamant that student feedback would be taken seriously by the administration, but he has not seen all of the feedback yet. Survey results were unavailable at press time.

“If there is a student voice for change, it needs to come across my desk,” Wroten said.

—By Mac Scott

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