Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Welcome to the University of Oklahoma: Home of a FAKE Guest WiFi Network

BYOB (bring your own bandwidth) is a non-negotiable requirement for conference presenters who use the Internet, and my experiences today at the University of Oklahoma confirmed this.

No Wifi at OU

Today’s Oklahoma Distance Learning Association (ODLA) conference was a superb chance for learning and networking – and I do not share this post to in any way reflect negatively on on ODLA. The lack of WiFi connectivity today at our conference was NOT the fault of ODLA or ODLA organizers. I do, however, want to gripe about the presence of a “Guest WiFi” network on the campus of the University of Oklahoma which was essentially a FAKE. It did not work. No one at our conference could connect to it and get online. The separate WiFi network for University of Oklahoma employees, faculty, staff and students worked, but that was a DIFFERENT SSID and required a userid/password. To NOT have available wifi Internet access at a statewide distance learning and technology conference is a cardinal sin in 2010. (Hey, that rhymes!) Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this happen at an Oklahoma, statewide technology conference.

In February 2008, I had a similar experience as a spotlight speaker at the Oklahoma Technology Association‘s annual conference. See my post, “BYOB – Bring Your Own Bandwidth” for full details. In that case, Cox Communications had a WiFi network available with a “pay here with your credit card” option, but it in fact did not work. No one could get me an Internet connection (wired or wireless) to present in one of the main ballrooms of the Oklahoma City Cox Convention Center, for a presentation I was sharing about “Internet Search Strategies.” Even when I put my credit card information into the wireless system to pay, it didn’t work, and I was told by the Cox employees staffing the business center that “our wireless Internet network doesn’t work and can’t accept credit card payments.” So much for the opportunity to teach others about digital technologies at a statewide conference. This should have been a HUGE embarrassment for Cox Communications as a company, and the Cox Convention Center as the ONLY large convention center option in Oklahoma City with sufficient size to accommodate the OTA conference. (I don’t think anyone at Cox noticed my predicament or really cared, however, and that was unfortunate.) As you might be able to tell, the “sting” of that experience is still with me today. As a result of that experience, I invested in a 3G wireless networking card for my computer and have traveled with cell phone data connectivity for my computer ever since.

As I noted at the time, “The burn of a stove is a memorable instructor.” Thankfully, that lesson from 2008 served me well today at the University of Oklahoma at the K-20 Center. If I had not “brought my own bandwidth” in the form of a wireless tethering mobile phone, my second session about “Powerful Ingredients 4 Blended Learning” might have been a complete disaster. As it was, I was able to access the Internet on my computer thanks to my own cell phone, and the session seemed to go pretty well. The Internet speed wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but it DID WORK.

AT&T Sierra Wireless USB Laptop Connection Card on my MacBook

If the electricity had been out in our building on the University of Oklahoma campus, would there have been a team of people working without interruption to restore service? I am sure that would have been the case. Unfortunately, an outage of “guest Wifi access” did not trigger an intervention by an IT SWAT team at OU today.

SWAT team prepared
Creative Commons License photo credit: OregonDOT

Hopefully this situation can be remedied soon!

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10 responses to “Welcome to the University of Oklahoma: Home of a FAKE Guest WiFi Network”

  1. Berlin Avatar

    No wonder I couldn’t connect. I thought it was something wrong with my laptop setting. The conference was very nice though.

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I thought it was “a Mac thing” at one point, but found it it was a larger wifi issue that has also been affecting other parts of the OU campus. I should have mentioned this situation also points to the value of bringing offline slides and video copies too!

    I am so sorry I missed your session, Berlin! I heard it was GREAT. You all have so much to teach us… I’m sure your situation with lots of laptops and iPhones is challenging in its own right, but I’m definitely envious of the learning opportunities you’re supporting for your students and faculty. Please keep sharing! Hopefully at the next conference we both attend together we won’t be scheduled to speak at the same time. 🙂

  3. Lone Marauder Avatar
    Lone Marauder

    So, the first line of the post states that you have to BYOB, and then you spend the rest of the post complaining about not having bandwidth. Somehow, I don’t think the University is at fault here…

  4. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    @Lone Marauder:

    How on earth could the university not be at fault? They provided NO connectivity AT ALL for ANY guests at the conference, presenters or attendees.

    The bandwidth I discussed using was the cell phone Internet connection I brought. That is “BYOB” – bring your own bandwidth. If I hadn’t brought my own tethered cell phone, I would not have had ANY connectivity at all during the conference.

  5. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I should add that WIRED connectivity for presenters was not available either at the conference.

  6. TechGirl Avatar

    I had the same issue at a conference I presented at last year in my state. They hosted a technology conference at a convention center and offered only wired internet to presenters only for the time they were presenting – if it worked at all (and there were some major issues). I believe wi-fi could be purchased if you wanted access for a period of time.

    I just really don’t understand how people in this day and age can host a technology event and not provide free wi-fi for the participants.

    Really baffles me!

  7. Get a life Avatar
    Get a life

    I would have to say to this person that doesn’t seem to be able to use a computer/ wireless very well at all. I was at K20 at the University of Oklahoma and didn’t have one issue. I would suggest before you complain about things not working that are, I would ask for help.. Maybe OU should make you pay for the free wireless then it would really be BYOB.

  8. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    @Get a life: Were you logged into the OU faculty/staff/student wifi, or the “OU Guest” wifi? The former SSID worked fine, but you had to have a login to authenticate. The “OU Guest” SSID didn’t function. It didn’t work for me or others with whom I spoke, and I confirmed with someone who works for OU IT that the “OU Guest” SSID wifi has not been working for some time in the southern part of campus. Apparently it has to do with a firewall change, and the DHCP server won’t hand out IP addresses to guest users.

    It’s not necessary for you to take a condescending tone to ask a question or make a point.

    If you did attend ODLA on Friday and were logged in to the “OU Guest” WiFi I’d be very interested to know how/why that worked for you and not for others.

  9. Simon Ringsmuth Avatar

    I had some trouble connecting initially, but it was because I had my Macbook DNS settings configured manually since I usually only use my computer on my home network. As soon as we figured out the problem and told AirPort to use a DHCP server to acquire DNS information and an IP address, everything worked pretty smoothly. I was on the OU Guest SSID, too. I did hear about others having problems, though. Weird.

  10. Mhaueter Avatar

    Guest Wifi at the University of Oklahoma at that time in 2010 only allowed access to local servers that are hosted by the University itself (so you can access your student/faculty mail, OU’s main website, and some various websites that are hosted from campus such as the Oklahoma Mesonet’s website.

    If you needed internet Access beforehand, you could have contacted OU IT, and they would have provided either a computer for you to use (which if you were properly prepared with a USB drive would have been doable) , or a temporary login for their WIFI. This is what they do for the many conferences that they host every year, that actually call ahead with the concern.