[media-credit name=”Haden Hamblin & Bryan Butterfield” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Three years ago, people were transmitting data over Weber State University’s network at a total of 60 megabits per second. Today, WSU’s Internet is being used at a rate of 290 Mbps, according to Jonathan Karras, a network and security technical manager at WSU.

Bret Ellis, vice president of WSU’s information technology division, said the reason for the significant surge could be attributed to several factors, such as the increasing number of students who carry laptops, smartphones, tablets and netbooks. He said these devices are “always on; they’re always connected.”

Kellie Roper, a WSU student, said that at night she usually keeps her laptop on with the social networking site Facebook open, even during times when she is not using it.

“I know people who (are always checking Facebook with their phones),” Roper said.

Ellis also noted that Hulu, an online video service that provides access to entire television episodes, exploded on the scene in 2008.

According to Karras, he said he witnessed the “largest sudden jump in Internet usage around (this) time . . . There has been a steady increase in usage each year since.”

Roper said she believes she spends more time on the Internet because of Hulu.

“I think I use (my laptop) more to watch TV, because you don’t waste as much of your time,” Roper said. “There’s (sic) not commercials. You can watch it at your own convenience.”

Some might say the jump is due to the recent growth in enrollment at WSU. Ellis noted that this might merely be a contributing factor, as the increase from 20,000 students two years ago to the current enrollment of 25,000 is only a 25 percent increase and does not fully amount to the 383.3 percent hike in Internet usage at WSU.

Within this same time period, from 2009 to now, the percentage of Utah homes that have Internet access has risen to be the highest in the nation, at 82.3 percent, according to the United States Department of Commerce and their latest report, “Exploring the Digital Nation — Computer and Internet Use at Home.”

Ellis said the statistic shows that having the Internet must be “an important priority for families,” considering its costs against the backdrop of a challenging economy. He speculated this might be partly due to the Utah Education Network, which provides a computer network to Utah’s public schools and its students. The students and their parents are able to e-mail teachers, check grades and access a library through the network from home, according to Ellis.

UEN also provides Canvas, an online learning management program, to WSU and other universities in Utah. A few students have recognized that, due to Canvas, having access to the Internet is a necessity.

Zach Phipps, a senior at WSU, said he spends an average of two or three hours per day on the Internet accessing grades and course content on Canvas.

David Hummer, another WSU student, said his Internet usage has increased 50 percent since his enrollment and added that he “can’t really function without it.”

Ellis said WSU is currently in the midst of a five-year plan to improve its Internet access, including adding more access points, which provide wireless connections in buildings as well as outdoors.

“(The work being done) is to upgrade the wireless to the latest wireless technology and also increase the capacity to accomodate the increase in wireless connected devices on campus,” Karras said. “The most recent buildings to receive these upgrades were the social science (building), student union and the library.”

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