Wifi Out at BVU due to cut cable in Sac City


Olivia Wieseler, News Editor

On Monday, May 7, Buena Vista University (BVU) and the surrounding communities lost access to Wi-Fi at 11:15 am due to a fiber optic cable connecting Wi-Fi servers to the Internet was cut somewhere between Rockwell and Sac City, according to BVU’s Internet provider Iowa Communications Network (ICN).

“Technically it really wasn’t a Wi-Fi outage,” said Director of Infrastructure and Operations Scott Wunschel. “Wi-Fi stayed up; it’s just the things that people wanted to get to out on the Internet, they couldn’t get to.”

Wunschel said that BVU’s Wi-Fi server was fine; it was the cable that connects Wi-Fi servers to the “greater Internet” that was drilled into on accident and why all of the customers of the ICN between Fort Dodge and Storm Lake experienced Internet loss. ICN mainly provides access to the Internet for larger organizations like state agencies, schools, government entities, and private institutions.

Wunschel explains when an issue with Internet access happens, the ICN is notified immediately, and they try to find a solution. They are able to see where the Internet access went down which then narrows down the place of the problem. Then, they take special equipment to locate the approximate place of the cut. After they have an idea of where it is at, they check to see what construction sites are registered to work in the area, and call them to see if they drilled into the cable.

In this case, a construction company did drill through the cable, so the ICN calls for emergency fiber splicers and splices the cable back together. Wunschel said that it is quite a process.

“That fiber that laid in the ground, really it’s a bundle of cable. And it could have dozens or hundreds of little fiber optic connectors in there. So, they need to go in, and clean that off and splice them back together. And they might need to put in a section of new cable,” said Wunschel.

This was not the first time BVU experienced this kind of unscheduled Wi-Fi outage. Wunschel said that the ITS department has learned from previous outages that it usually takes about four hours for the Wi-Fi connection to work again. The last time Wunschel remembered BVU experiencing a fiber cut was in November 2013.

“In 2013, they couldn’t find the break,” said Wunschel. “They couldn’t figure out where it was at. We were actually down six or eight hours at the most.”

While the disconnection from the Internet on Monday, May 7, did not last quite that long, it still affected many students and their studies.

“It made my job really boring because I can’t really do anything without the Internet because we have to work on fixing people’s problems that way,” said Kevin Martinez, a junior Marketing major and 2Fix employee. “[It] made life a little harder than it should have been.”

Some classes, like junior Physical Education major Serena Sandvig’s, dismissed early because of the inability to access the Internet. While the extra time was nice, students still couldn’t really work on assignments without the Internet.

“We got out of class early, so that was kind of nice, but I also had a big project due the next day, so I was unable to really work on that because it was online,” said Sandvig.

Few students were fortunate to have other homework they could work on without the Internet. Kaitlyn Werner, a sophomore social work major, was one of these unique students.

“I had other classes that I had to read a book for, so I didn’t feel like it impacted me that much,” said Werner.

Not many students were as lucky as Werner, and some even took the liberty to find Internet elsewhere.

“I just had a lot of stuff that I wanted to get done, so I went someplace else in town where they had Wi-Fi,” said Joe Thraen, senior Human Performance and Physical Education major.

The loss of the connection to the Internet had huge effects across campus for students, faculty, and staff. Because of the university’s increasing reliance on the Internet, many wonder why BVU does not purchase Internet access from a second provider in case the other goes down. Wunschel says it would be another $800 a month with a five-year commitment. To him, it doesn’t seem like the cost is not worth the unlikelihood that the Internet will go down unexpected.

“They might have another fiber cut tomorrow and then another one next week and then another one next month. And if that’s the case, then that alternative provider looks more and more appealing. When you have a cut that’s four and a half years apart, then it looks like a waste of money,” said Wunschel. “At this point, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the cost involved with it, but we’re always thinking about that.”

Access to the Internet resumed at 3:05 pm.