PAL filtering to improve wireless availability and reliability for academic use is expanding campuswide

Log in to PAL-Recreational to stream Netflix or play games on Steam.

ITaP is expanding campuswide a wireless filtering system that separates academic uses and some high-bandwidth recreational uses on Purdue Air Link (PAL), Purdue’s main wireless network, with the aim of improving wireless availability and reliability for students and instructors using academic apps like Blackboard Learn.

The program, to be in effect after spring break, suspends student access to some major non-academic consumers of bandwidth on PAL3.0 in academic areas of campus between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday (no filtering anywhere overnight or on weekends). The suspended applications include Netflix, Hulu, Apple updates, iTunes, Pandora, iHeartRadio, HBO and Steam.

Faculty access is not being filtered. Faculty with graduate students who teach and need access for instructional purposes can request an exception for those graduate assistants. To receive an exception, or for more information, please email palfeedback@purdue.edu.

The applications will be suspended only on PAL3.0, the main Purdue wireless network. The streaming applications will remain readily available over any wired connection, for example in offices and at classroom podiums, which offer the best option when streaming media during class for instructional purposes.

The affected streaming applications will not be filtered in nonacademic buildings, such as the Purdue Memorial Union and Stewart Center, or in residence halls. In common areas of academic buildings, for example atriums, lounges and some hallways away from classrooms and labs, students still will be able to access the affected apps by connecting to wireless access points named PAL-Recreational, a separate stream set up for recreational use.

ITaP in the fall began testing the suspension of high-bandwidth, nonacademic streaming applications in four large lecture halls around campus to see if it improved access to academic apps like Blackboard and in-class response technology, such as Purdue’s Hotseat. The pilot was later expended to an entire building, the Forney Hall of Chemical Engineering.

The pilot indicated that access to academic applications improved in locations with the filtering system and students and faculty expressed few concerns about it, leading to the decision to deploy campuswide.

Network traffic hosted by PAL has increased by more than a factor of five in the past five years, and at the same time the price for more bandwidth has doubled. In addition, there is a technological limit to the number of wireless access points that can be accommodated in classrooms and buildings before the signals from the devices overlap and actually degrade service.

Big contributors to the growth in bandwidth demand include the proliferation of wireless devices, advances in web and high-quality streaming video and online gaming with large data requirements. In a typical large classroom or a building, hundreds of students may be present, each operating more than one wireless device simultaneously.

The filtering system should help alleviate those issues to some extent and improve wireless availability and reliability for teaching and learning purposes.

Email palfeedback@purdue.edu with feedback or for more information.

Writer:  Greg Kline, IT communications manager, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8167, gkline@purdue.edu.

Last updated: March 1, 2019