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Biola suffers internet outage

Cut lines on La Mirada Boulevard causes loss of internet access across campus.  |  Jana Eller/THE CHIMES

 

The campus spent most of the day without internet access after a public utilities company cut the fiber optic lines to Biola while attempting to conduct repairs on Oct. 3.

A CAR, A CRASH AND A CUT

A car accident on La Mirada Boulevard damaged power lines at approximately 2:30 a.m., severing power in some nearby areas. Public utilities arrived for repairs and began cutting live wires for safety purposes at approximately 8:30 a.m. This included two 1-gigabit fiber optic wires, which they did not realize gave Biola access to the internet. Though Information Technology projected connection to return on Thursday or Friday, the university began to regain access by 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

The outage prevented connection to university websites, causing users attempting connection to land on a maintenance page hosted off-site, and disallowed authentication to linked services such as Canvas.

Due to the problems with Canvas, students were unable to submit or work on certain homework assignments. Sophomore cinema and media arts major Andy Aragon saw the day as a slight hindrance to homework.

“I’d love to get started on some homework, but… it’s an inconvenience because I could go off campus, I could go to a Starbucks, but it’s like, ‘Well I have to work and I’d rather not leave,’ and it’s just a hassle,” Aragon said. “There’s nobody we can blame since it was an accident and Biola itself can’t really do anything about it. I know they worked hard… we just kind of have to live with it until it gets fixed.”

LEARNING LESSONS AND MOVING FORWARD

Throughout the day, IT closely monitored the situation while developing solutions. For instance, when the internet returned, system administration was preparing to announce a fix which would have allowed students to gain access to Canvas.

d“When IT folks get thrown a good challenge, they respond,” said Steve Earle, senior director of IT. “We’re going to morph that project and figure out how to bring up our [Active Directory] environment for authentication in [Amazon Web Services] so that we never get stuck in this position again.”

Internet providers began repairs on the lines earlier than expected, ultimately allowing the internet to return ahead of schedule. IT released emails periodically through the day as updates came, while also interacting with workers repairing the damaged pole.

“There’s a lesson that IT is going to keep learning, is that communication is a lot of work and it’s tough,” Earle said. “We’re very good at what we do on this side, but then we have to pause and think about, ‘How do we communicate? What are we going to say? How do we want to say it?’”

Even prior to the outage, IT has been planning to bring fiber optic wires onto campus from two different locations to prevent sudden losses of internet connection due to a concentrated line failure like the university experienced. This project will likely finish toward the end of this semester or the beginning of the next, according to director of network operations Scott Himes.

“We have two different providers that we use already. It’s just that both of those providers were riding on that same pole,” Himes said. “Fiber optic cabling is already laid on the other side of campus coming into campus from Lot A. So the plan is to move one of our service providers to that physical fiber… so next time around someone decides to take out this same pole again then we won’t be affected.”

 

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