Unilodge management has recently introduced new penalties for the use of prohibited wireless internet routers in Unilodge residences

From February 25, a $200 fine may be applied to ‘Any resident found using a wireless or wired router, switch or hub connected to the ANU network in their rooms’ In addition, ‘The internet connection to the room will be disconnected until the resident has signed an agreement not to breach the policy in the future.’  According to ANU policy, the use of ‘all radio frequency (RF) spectrums across campus including unlicensed RF spectrums for wireless LAN and RF channel allocations’ is subject to the discretion of the university.

This latest move was a response to complaints about slow network speeds. In an email sent out to Unilodge residents, General Manager Peter Warrington wrote that the fines were a ‘zero-tolerance’ measure adopted after a number of residents ‘experienced difficulties in connecting to the internet because of users who have used routers in their rooms’, and that this ‘had an adverse impact on their ability to study’.

The new measures have been met with frustration and dismay amongst many Unilodge residents. ‘It’s a fucking disgrace,’ one resident said, describing how their room was on the furthest side of the building from the study and common rooms – the only areas which have wireless internet access.

‘It’s super inconvenient because the Ethernet means that we have to sit at our desk the entire time we’re connected to the internet,’ said another. ‘It’s not fair given that it’s well known that unilodgers pay their fair share.’ Without wireless access, many residents use private mobile networks at their own expense. ‘Most people have to use 3G, making us spend more money.’

Another described it as a ‘money-grabbing scheme’, reflecting a popular perception that the motivation behind the decision was increasing revenue rather than improving services.

This view is evident in a video titled ‘Hitler finds out Unilodge doesn’t have wifi in rooms’ that has been posted on Youtube and shared on social media.

In the video, criticism of the new measures is subtitled over a monologue delivered by Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall. ‘I pay my arse out to live here and I don’t get wifi in my room?!’ the subtitles read. ‘Is that all I am to them? Some sort of CASH COW? They’re already making us pay so much for the utilities, let alone the room!’ An online petition, which currently has over two hundred signatures, has also been set up to protest the new fines.

In a separate correspondence, Warrington rejects this claim, writing that ‘Unilodge benefits in no way from any additional charges’, which are ‘predominantly a cost recovery exercise’.

But not everyone thinks the fines are unfair. ‘Rules are rules,’ one resident said. ‘I think if the rule was in place [then] breaking [it] would logically mean a fine.’ The policy against wireless routers has been in place since 2012.

Others dispute the premise that banning wireless routers will increase network speeds, with allegations that the infrastructure is inadequate to handle demand. ‘If routers interfere with the ANU’s internet then I would understand,’ one student reasoned. ‘But in my experience the internet hasn’t been affected by wireless sources. In fact it’s probably worse now.’

Another resident suggested that ‘obtuse amounts of people using [the network] at peak hour’ was more likely the cause of slow speeds.

Arjuna Mohottala, president of PARSA, agrees that infrastructure may be the key point. In an email forwarded to Woroni, he wrote that ‘imposing fines before making decent internet connectivity available (preferably Wi-Fi) is similar to having the cart before the horse.’ The question of poor infrastructure is also alluded to in the satirical video, where one passage reads ‘Are they saying I can’t even set up a router? To deal with a problem they refuse to address?’

Others have suggested that the anger is misdirected, as it is the ANU that manages Unilodge’s IT services, not Unilodge, which is a separate company.

A meeting was held on Friday between Unilodge management, the Director of ITS and the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Student Experience to look at ‘potential solutions’ to ‘improve service campus wide’, though what form this will take is unclear. For Mohattala, resolving this issue will become all the more important as more ANU services move online. ‘Unilodge residents pay some of the highest residential rental rates at ANU. It is only fitting that appropriate infrastructure is provided for these students.’