Daniel Copher was halfway through lecturing his history and appreciation of music night class last fall when a student collapsed and started convulsing.
The Barry Kaye Hall filled with gasps, whispers and panicked looks as Copher rushed to the back of the room to find Lauryn Hogg, a sophomore social work major, lying on the ground, shaking. Copher then reached into his pocket to grab his cellphone. He took one anxious look at it and looked back up to his students — no service.
Copher left the room with a frantic look on his face.
“I had to leave [Lauryn] in the care of other students to walk outside the building,” Copher says.
Minutes later, he returned after exiting the building to make an emergency call.
“I tried to text my mom during the class to let her know something wasn’t right, and I felt weird but couldn’t get service,” Hogg said. “ I didn’t feel well enough to get up and leave the class to try and get service.”
Michael Diaz, a junior psychology major, was in Copher’s class when the incident happened.
“It would be much more comforting knowing immediate cellphone action could have taken place,” Diaz said. “If a medical emergency were to ever happen to me.”
Why your reception sucks
Weak cellphone reception is the result of numerous factors, including proximity to network towers and the raw materials of buildings. Thick walls, weather and even high cellphone traffic are some other causes of weak cellphone service on campus.
According to Jason Ball, associate vice president of the Office of Information Technology (OIT), which oversees FAU’s telecommunications, energy efficient materials had to be included in the buildings on campus in order to meet building codes.
“The problem of cellphone reception in newer construction is a problem nationwide,” Ball said. “Construction materials that meet environmental and hurricane structural requirements are the main contributors to this problem.”
The silver used in glass windows for energy efficiency, such as the windows in Innovation Village Apartments, interfere with radio signals and cause weak reception.
“I had to walk out of class. Got a call from my sister saying mom’s in the emergency room, so maybe if I was in IVA I wouldn’t have gotten the call,” Christopher Andreassi, a senior management information systems major, said.
Gary Stern, owner of Tech U, FAU’s on-campus technology store, hears complaints from students about cellphone reception on a daily basis.
“We know for a fact that [students] are having a problem with signal, because they come to us saying that all the time,” Stern said. “We found out that some of the services works around campus, except there’s places all around that certain networks don’t get reception.”
Other areas on campus that suffer from weak reception include Culture and Society, IVA North, Engineering East, General South and the Barry Kaye Hall in the College of Business.
Economics professor, Eric Chiang, who teaches in the College of Business, implemented an interactive teaching method using text messaging in his courses.
“Cellphone reception is becoming more important, even in the classroom, as more professors use technologies that require wireless signal,” Chiang said. “If there isn’t a strong wireless signal within the classroom, that makes it more difficult for students to participate.”
More problems than solutions
Although many of the factors that weaken your cellphone reception cannot be changed, there are solutions for this problem.
A main priority on campus, as far as cellphone reception goes, is repairing cellphone service in IVA North, according to Jason Ball. IVA is the newest residence hall on campus with arguably the worst reception.
“I never get reception in [IVA North], ever,” Allison Segal, a sophomore business major, said. “I have to stand against my the window just to talk to my family.”
OIT has been in contact with Verizon Wireless in an attempt to resolve the problem of cellphone reception, but one solution has already been implemented according to Ball.
A Distributed Antenna System (DAS), an antenna used to transmit service to areas of a small scale, was installed in IVA North in late summer of 2012, by Verizon Wireless, in an attempt to boost cell reception.
“Verizon Wireless paid for the installation of the system, which is currently live for Verizon customers and public safety,” Ball said. “The system is now available for other carriers to join, and we are beginning conversations in an attempt to persuade as many carriers as possible to join.”
Kelly Starling, AT&T South Florida public relations manager, confirmed that FAU administration has been in contact with AT&T about the issue as well.
“FAU apparently already knows how to go about doing this [repairing reception], because they’re in touch with the AT&T account team concerning solution options,” Starling said.
The UP reached out to Sprint and T-Mobile representatives for comment, but haven’t received responses as of press time.
Although Ball confirmed that Verizon did install a DAS to fix the problem, residents of IVA North are having issues of their own with the device.
“In summer three semester, they put some sort of device with Verizon up to fix reception and it worked. Right after, [tropical storm Isaac] happened, and it went out. Now, reception is still out,” Jonelle Francois, a sophomore communications and french major, said.
Other students heard that the problem was still in the process of being addressed.
“I heard that they were trying to fix [cellphone reception] after the summer, but I still don’t have good cellphone reception this semester,” Jimmy Roberts, a senior accounting major currently residing in IVA North, said.
According to Ball, OIT isn’t aware of any issues following the storm, but students living in IVA North certainly are.
(2) “I know that they’re trying to work on something in IVA. They put in a Verizon tower. It worked for a little while but then it stopped working again,” Hosea Rogers, a senior finance major, said.
Although there are a few kinks in the current system, OIT is not planning to draft a proposal about cellphone reception to the Technology Fee Oversight Committee, the administrative organization that oversees and approves budget use of the technology fee.
“Rather than use limited tech fee funding, we have been working with the carriers to address the issues,” Ball said. “Building a DAS system does not guarantee participation by the carriers.”
Meaning that expanding on the DAS system will not guarantee that cellphone reception will strengthen for all carriers on campus.
As far as the rest of the school goes, official plans haven’t been completed, according to OIT.
“We also recognize that other facilities, such as Engineering East and Culture and Society, suffer from the same problem,” Ball said. “Because of our dependence on the carriers, it is not possible to give a timeline as to when service will be expanded to other facilities.”
Until service is expanded, emergencies such as Daniel Copher’s student fainting, may continue to occur without full cellphone coverage.
“Thankfully, [Lauryn] fully recovered after a short hospital stay,” Copher said, “but it was certainly an urgent situation that needed immediate attention, which requires cellphone reception.”
“I don’t think I should have to run to the window or go outside to call for life saving help,” said Jason Sedler, a sophomore management information systems major who left the building that night to contact FAU police. “Every second counts.”
Gators get great service
While FAU administrators are just addressing poor cellphone reception now, the University of Florida, who had the same issue, has found a solution.
UF suffered from weak cellphone reception and made arrangements in January 2012 for Distributed Antenna Systems to be installed to boost cellphone reception, beginning in the UF football stadium, and eventually expanding school-wide — and it didn’t cost them a cent.
UF arranged a contract with AT&T, who paid for the installation. The antennas have been placed in the stadium, as of September 2012, and remaining antennas are to be placed throughout the school to boost reception campus-wide.
FAU installed a similar system in Innovation Village Apartments North, and Verizon Wireless paid for the installation. Plans have not yet been made to expand on the system.
According to Tracy Gale, communications manager at University of Florida Information Technology, the DAS has been fairly successful in the stadium thus far.
“The project was completed on time as promised, and signal reception is greatly enhanced,” Gale said. “We expect to be successful as we continue rolling out Distributed Antenna Systems to upcoming areas of campus.”
The system will only boost reception for AT&T users for now, but according to The Alligator, UF’s student newspaper, other major networks like Verizon and Sprint are expected to join next year. The antennas are expected to be installed within the same time frame.
SG raises the bar
What student government is doing about cellphone reception
“It’s a huge priority for us to make sure that our students can always communicate via cellphone, not only in classrooms but also in dorms. So we have addressed that concern to Student Affairs Administration… and we brought it up and Dr. [Corey] King (associate vice president and dean of students) is very supportive of us and our concerns,” Student Body President Robert Huffman.
“It’s been brought up to the deans and vice president. [Dr. King] that it’s definitely something that’s on our agendas, and it’s not being overlooked…housing is aware of the situation and we’re going to be active with that. When the house comes back together to meet, there’s a campus action committee that’s there, and we’re going to get in contact with them and start looking at other key areas that have the same issue,” Student Body Vice President April Turner.
Hello, hello, hello?
Three easy ways to boost your cellphone reception:
1) Keep your battery charged more than 50 percent: Believe it or not, battery life has a significant effect on cellphone reception. With high battery power, your phone will have more power to search for signal.
2) Hold your phone at the correct angle: Most cellphones are designed to retrieve signal at an angle perpendicular to the ground. You can boost signal by holding your phone vertically.
3) Take care of your SIM card: The position of a SIM card in a phone is important to cellphone signal, as well. From time to time, check to make sure the SIM card is positioned flat inside of the phone and is clear of any dust or debris.
“We all communicate through texting, and we need to be able to know what’s going on with the organizations we’re involved in,” Amanda Talham, senior secondary social science education major.
“I think it makes a lot of things very inconvenient for the students, especially students living in IVA” Marques Bayas, sophomore criminal justice major.
“All the time, to receive an emergency call, I have to step out of the classroom to take the call, which disrupts the class, because you have to get up,” Britney Irish, junior political science major.
“It sucks, because if you’re somewhere, and you need to call one of your friends to meet up somewhere, you can’t call in the buildings. It’s just tough to communicate around the school,” Nicole Samsel, freshman biology major.
“Pretty much anywhere where you’re inside a building it’s pretty spotty. I think that the school should do something about it, because they raised tuition, what was it, 15 percent every year, so it should go somewhere,” Cory Gondre, senior chemistry major.
“I always get concerned when there’s no service wherever I am. What if there’s an emergency? How are we supposed to call 911 for help?” Christine Joseph, junior biology major.