Undergrads quickly running out of data prompts petition to change Wi-Fi data caps

Emily O’Toole

More than 650 people have signed a Change.org petition to remove or extend UT’s Wi-Fi data caps after the petition went live two weeks ago.

Santiago Moreno, geological sciences freshman and creator of the petition, said he started the petition after experiencing and hearing his friends complain about slowed internet access after exceeding the data allowances. Normal activities now require more data than in previous years, and the one gigabyte limit is no longer representative of today’s internet usage, Moreno said. 

“That may have been adequate five to 10 years ago, but not today,” Moreno said. “Mobile phone data plans are larger than a gigabyte, in general. If you’re signed in to your (Resnet Wi-Fi) account on your phone, your computer, your tablet, you’re going through that gigabyte a lot faster. One gigabyte is ridiculously small.”

UT students are allocated one gigabyte of bandwidth per week, though on-campus residents are alloted 11 gigabytes per week. Once the allocation is exceeded, students experience slower internet speeds for the remainder of the week. Students can purchase extra weekly bandwidth at any point in the semester.

Computer science sophomore Jeffrey Zhu said students need a greater data allowance for schoolwork.

“If you’re going to download a textbook, that’s (a lot of) megabytes,” Zhu said. “In any major, you’re downloading, say, for example, three textbooks in the first week of class. That’s already over your limit.”

UT’s IT budget advisory commission, the Central Information Technology Executive Commission, suggested in its Fast Track Recommendations Report in September to increase default allocated data for students from one gigabyte per week to five gigabytes per week. 

According to the report, the CITEC’s rationale was that the current data allowance doesn’t meet students’ needs. Last year, 52 percent of students exceeded the default allocation in an average week, according to the report.

“Despite very tight financial times … we recommended increasing the quota for students by 500 percent,” CITEC co-chair Dan Stanzione said in an email. “We recognize that good network access on campus is critical to how students work. We definitely took into account the number of students exceeding the cap, and also simply the increasing demand for network capacity in all aspects of research and education.” 

Stanzione said the report has not been acted on yet, but that changes to the Information Technology Services budget are currently under consideration.