School exceeds internet bandwidth, updates made

Technology services makes updates to fix connection issues inconveniencing school


Statistics depicting bandwidth increases at LT, Gpbs an abbreviation for Gigabits per second (Quealy/LION).

Rory Quealy, News Editor, Website Editor

Due to the addition of 1:1 Chromebooks into the curriculum, LT’s internet usage has increased greatly as students and staff incorporate the use of technology more frequently in the classroom. This sustained internet traffic has caused the school to exceed the internet bandwidth, resulting in numerous connectivity issues. 

LT’s internet is supplied from two sources: Illinois Century Network (ICN), the network operated by the state of Illinois, and the Western Springs Municipal Consortium. The state’s network, via a 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) connection, was previously used for the district’s business traffic, such as the district email, access to Infinite Campus Portal and various login authentications. The Western Springs Municipal Consortium was responsible for the vast majority of LT’s internet browser usage. A 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) connection was shared with other schools and municipal facilities in Western Springs, including the Thomas Ford Memorial Library and Saint John of the Cross Catholic Church and School; with over 4,000 students and 500 staff members, LT is the largest user of the consortium. The school’s internet usage exceeded both the state and consortium connections’ capabilities, Director of Technology Ed Tennant said. 

The result has been slow response times on the internet, Tennant said. When the internet demand exceeds capacity, certain applications used in the classroom present an error when the internet does not respond in a certain amount of time. Other applications that use audio or video will display choppy, unintelligible speech, and distorted images. Because data traffic fluctuates immensely over short periods of time, the applications’ ability to function properly may seem random.

“[Due to] the very transient nature [of the internet], you can refresh a page five times in a row and everything comes through, and then three times and it doesn’t, and then the very next time it responds,” Tennant said. 

Natalie Carlson teaches Keyboarding, Mobile Makers, and AP Computer Science, which are all technology classes at LT. The curriculums for those classes consist mostly of online work, such as programming on a cloud-based software for AP Computer Science. Connectivity issues have hindered productivity in her classes, she said. 

“There are times, especially in my first period class, where half the period [students] aren’t able to connect [to the internet],” Carlson said. “If they can’t connect, then they can’t do classwork.”

On Oct. 18 at 11 p.m., updates to increase the internet bandwidth were made. While the updates were being made, internet services at both campuses were temporarily unavailable; access to services such as Infinite Campus Portal, Canvas, ClassLink, and Chromebook authentication from off campus was limited. 

The updates increased the size of both the state and Western Springs Municipal Consortium connections. The state connection increased from 100 Mbps at NC to 10 Gbps at each campus. The Western Springs Municipal Consortium increased from a shared 1 Gbps connection to a 10 Gbps shared connection. LT will be allotted seven of the 10 Gbps and the rest of the consortium will share the remaining 3 Gbps. Overall, LT’s aggregate bandwidth increased from 1.1 Gbps to 27 Gbps dedicated to the district. 

In the past, NC’s browser traffic flowed to the internet through the consortium connection at SC. North would connect to South and South to the internet. Now though, both NC and SC have independent connections with the ability to connect to each other. This way if the internet goes out at one campus, the other campus can supply it, Tennant said. 

Additionally, the updates changed the way the internet is transmitted to LT. LT will employ fiber optic cables for all new connections, as opposed to some previously using copper telephone cables. The fiber optic cables allow transmission of data networking via light, making transmission rates higher. The new cables grant the ability to have faster internet via bigger bandwidths that connect more effectively. 

As a whole, these updates should fix any issues with slow response times and errors, as well as glitches in applications, Tennant said. 

After the Oct. 11 updates, Carlson has noticed an improvement in the internet and seldom experiences connectivity issues with Chromebooks in her classes, she said.

However, some issues were experienced in the aftermath of the bandwidth upgrades, Tennant said. The issues are generally related to how the new security hardware, required to accommodate the increased bandwidth, handled network traffic. Because the new hardware operated differently from the old hardware, modifications were necessary to ensure it is capable of the flows of traffic LT needs. 

The updates were intended to be made prior to the start of the school year to prepare for increased internet traffic from Chromebooks, but supply chain and other issues relating to COVID-19 caused AT&T, the company that provides the circuits for the state and consortium connections, to push the updates back, Tennant said. 

Tennant acknowledges that the connectivity issues have been inconvenient and appreciates the support of the school as the updates are being made, he said.

“Thank you for your patience and flexibility while we’ve tried to get these improvements installed and operational,” Tennant said. “Faculty, teachers, and students have worked really hard to not allow student educational activities to suffer and I cannot adequately express appreciation for that.”