Dead zones on campus create safety issue

Students are upset with the cell phone coverage around campus, which is particularly bad in buildings such as Griffin Hall and the Fine Arts building. Some students are concerned that these dead zones also create a safety issue.

However, Police Chief Jason Willis is concerned with the reliance on cell phone technology. While this concerns Willis, he said that the campus has other ways of getting information out to students.

“The P.A. system is the most reliable real time system on campus,” Willis said.

Willis said the P.A. system is controlled by the dispatch center at the police station. The dispatch center can send out sirens or voice alerts through speakers that are set up on the inside and outside of buildings. Willis said you can hear the alerts anywhere on campus.

Norse Alert is another program that can be used to alert students of emergencies, according to Willis. It also relies on e-mails, voice messages, campus sirens, and local media broadcast to relay emergency information.

Willis also said that students are able to use the call boxes around campus to contact the police at any time.

“What if you need to call the cops and none of the boxes are around you?” a sophomore web design major Emile Lubeck said. “You’re screwed.”

Other students don’t believe it’s a huge safety concern.

“NKU is safe. There’s always people around,” said Kayla Schneider, a junior human resource major.

Alex Sears, a junior computer science major, said the gym in the Albright Health Center is a bad spot for cell phone reception.

Another student, Kendra Harris, a junior studio art major, said she doesn’t get any service in the art building besides the painting room.

Other problem areas mentioned by students include the Student Union, the Mathematics-Education-Psychology Center and Griffin Hall. Students said the coverage in Griffin Hall is particularly bad.

“The worst is the bottom floor of Griffin Hall,” said junior business informatics major Tony Delotell.

Infrastructure Team Director Doug Wells attributes the problem to the structure of the campus. Wells said the concrete and the window coatings block the signals.

“The windows in Griffin Hall are notorious for blocking signals,” Wells said.

The amount of students also causes signal problems, according to Wells. He compares it to attending a sporting event, where there are large amounts of people using their phones at the same time.

Wells also said the problem varies by carrier. Some carriers get better reception than other carriers on campus.

The IT team has been working on solutions to fix the problem. Some carriers that Wells said he has reached out to include AT&T, Verizon and Cincinnati Bell.

Microcells are a small scale solution that have been implemented on campus.  According to Wells, microcells are cell phone signal repeaters that plug into the NKU network and broadcast a signal. The problem with the repeaters are that they can only support a certain amount of phones and they are also carrier specific. Some areas that the microcells have been placed include the Student union, Steely Library, and the Administrative Center.

Wells said that the Cincinnati Bell and Verizon microcells work well, but the AT&T repeaters pose a problem.

“The AT&T microcells require you to program the numbers in,” Wells said.

This means using the microcell would require the actual cell phone number of the person trying to use it. Wells explained that this makes the AT&T microcells unusable.

Another solution that Wells has reached out to carriers about is a distributed antenna system. These antennas would boost the signal around campus.

However, Wells said that carriers showed little interest in installing a distributed antenna system on campus. Putting up such a system could provide better service on some of the highways for the carriers, according to Wells. The system, said Wells, would cover highways 275 and 471 next to campus . He said that money is an issue and carriers don’t want to foot the bill of a distributed antenna system, which could cost an over $1 million. Wells also said that building the distributed antenna system wouldn’t guarantee the carriers would want to connect to it.

One of Wells’ suggestions for students to help is to reach out to their carriers in order for them to become more interested in a large scale solution.

“People need to call carriers and let them know their service is bad on campus,” Wells said.