Dropped calls in places like Thorne and West Halls may soon be a thing of the past. The Information Technology Advisory Council (ITAC) is in the process of completing a project that will bring Verizon microcells to spots with weak mobile reception around campus.

This was one of several projects detailed in an email to students from ITAC, a student group dedicated to addressing concerns about technology on campus, on Tuesday. The council’s recent work also includes a new mobile printing app, PolarPrint, and EchoDrive, a Bowdoin-only cloud storage system reminiscent of larger systems like Dropbox. 

ITAC had been working to improve Verizon’s coverage on campus off-and-on for the past eight years, but struggled to get through the company’s bureaucracy, said Matt Glatt ’14, ITAC’s co-chairman and founder.

Recently, though, a student’s parent working at Verizon—Glatt declined to provide the student’s name—contacted Bowdoin’s Chief Information Officer Mitch Davis and arranged for microcell devices to be put in place. Engineers from Verizon are expected to install them by the end of November, and they aim to improve spots that have long given the carrier trouble—particularly the area encompassing Coles Tower, Thorne Hall, and Osher, West and Stowe Halls. 

Additionally, Glatt says, the microcells are only a temporary solution. ITAC’s ultimate goal is to have a “full-fledged tower installation” providing Verizon coverage, similar to one AT&T has had on campus for several years. 

The other two projects announced in the email—mobile printing and the new storage system—are already live. Glatt had the idea for PolarPrint, the printing app, last year, when he learned that Pharos, the College’s printing system, didn’t have a mobile app available. 

“We were angry and we wanted more flexibility there,” he said. “You can print if you’re going to class or have a meeting with a professor and don’t have a computer in front of you.”
EchoDrive has been live since last year, but the council is just starting to publicize it. It replaces an older system, Microwave, which Glatt said had received many complaints. “People didn’t really want to learn how to use it,” he said.

Glatt sees EchoDrive as an improvement and as a superior alternative to services like Dropbox.
“If I’m a visual arts major, and I have 10,000 photos and need space to store them all, with Dropbox I might have to pay,” he said. But with EchoDrive, Glatt said, “you can email IT and they’ll give you more [storage space] if you need it.”

A file-sharing system does give students the ability to illegally share content like films or music. But Glatt emphasized that precautions have been put in place—if this were to happen a lot, “IT would see a big volume of bandwidth being transferred back and forth,” he said. At that point, they would ask the involved students about the cause.

“Before IT goes in and ‘big brothers’ you to see what files you have, they’ll ask you,” he said. He hopes that this system will encourage students to use the service legitimately.  

ITAC is also working with IT on improvements to the campus’ wireless Internet, which many students say has been spotty lately. 

“It drops out at random times,” said Jeffrey Chung ’16, who added that an outage affected him and many others during the Student Activities Fair in David Saul Smith Union on Tuesday night.
Director of Networking and Communications Jason Lavoie said that the College has been working with students and faculty to try and resolve individual issues which are sometimes caused by interference from devices like gaming systems, printers or microwaves. 
More broadly, he said, IT is in the process of a network upgrade that comes with additional wireless access points, which Lavoie said they are “deploying as needed where there are coverage gaps.” 

Glatt also mentioned that the new system employs a “load balancer,” a tool that will allow IT to allocate bandwidth to locations where it sees spikes in traffic. 

Lavoie said he expects the upgrade to be completed sometime between Fall Break and Christmas.