Power Outages Cause Constant Wi-Fi Interruptions, Arising Concerns in Digital Learning


Pok Rie

Recent power outages followed by Wi-Fi interruptions affected campus life and remote learners.

Ibrahim Aksoy

Pace University Pleasantville campus experienced power outages and Wi-Fi disruptions on Friday, Oct. 8, resulting in the Pace community to run out of internet connection caused by a power loss from ConEd, Pace’s power provider.

The Pace community was first notified via an email from the IT department, stating that Pace is experiencing “an unplanned service interruption, which is affecting various Pace systems.” Approximately four hours after the initial email, the ITS helpdesk sent out another email, announcing that the power outage issue was resolved.

“Although power came back shortly thereafter, not all systems and services restarted automatically, so our technicians had to manually bring the systems back online,” the email said.

While power came back shortly after, Wi-Fi disruptions continued across the campus, affecting Monday and Tuesday classes. Heather Hayes, media and communications lecturer, was teaching public speaking class on Monday when the disruptions continued. 

Hayes said the Wi-Fi issues resulted in interrupting her class, causing delays in students delivering their speech. “Running Zoom and Google Slides simultaneously was too much for the wi-fi to handle, and as a result, while a student was delivering a speech, the laptop froze and I had to reboot it,” Hayes added.

The incipient power loss did not last long but continued connection problems caused Wi-Fi to slow down, forcing the ITS department to manually reset the system.

“Resolving the issue was prolonged because there are many different network devices across campus that needed to be either restarted or needed to reset in order to continue to function normally,” Marie Maldonado, assistant vice president, ITS responsible for development and infrastructure, said.

The problem occurred when the Pleasantville campus fully opened for the first time in 18 months. The repeated power outages and Wi-Fi connection issues forced students for alternatives as they were unable to benefit from the internet service.

Samantha Voglio, junior digital cinema and filmmaking major, was on campus when the disruptions hit the Pace community. Voglio did not have a class on Monday so the days-long interruptions did not affect her class schedule. While with her friends to study at townhouses, Voglio had no power to log into Classes or use her Google account.

“I figured I would try to make the best of the situation as I could,” Voglio said. “I couldn’t log on to classes and I couldn’t work on documents in my google account, so I started working on a few of my papers in my notes app.”

Voglio departed townhouses and headed to an in-person club meeting where she did not have to use the internet. Realizing the power would not come back soon, Voglio used her data on her phone for the book club’s meeting.

“By the time I had finished the hunt, the wifi was back on but my motivation to work was gone!” Voglio said. “I was able to at least finish a few essays before deciding to call it a night and just watch Netflix.”

In the age of online learning, similar incidents are inevitable. To make the best out of it, Pace is preparing to install increased power units and protection components. “We are pursuing installing additional power related protection in those areas that do not already have this protection in place, and this will address some of these issues,” Maldonado said.

Pace’s campus power is supported by ConEd and the network is provided by Cisco. The power related issues have shown that one interruption could affect the other, resulting in multiple power outages that could last for days. Wireless internet connection relies on highly sensitive cables, which might be out of service immediately and takes longer times to reconnect.

“We are working very closely with our network vendor Cisco to ensure that our wireless network is as resilient as it can be, and that it remains in good health to support our students, staff and faculty during all times of the year,” Maldonado said.

To prevent similar interruptions, students are highly encouraged to report any problems to the ITS department as each power loss might have a different reason and need special procedure. Using a wired connection may be an alternative if the Wi-Fi connection seems unstable. “There are a limited number of cables available in the Pleasantville Computer Resource Center for those who need them,” Maldonado added.