Recently we have received several complaints regarding LAN port problems where students have had to go on without any internet for extended periods of time. With the internet being an indispensable part of IIT life, the student community wonders why the repair of LAN ports is such a slow process. However is it really so slow a process? CC stats show that most complaints are dealt with in two to three days. InsIghT finds out.
The current contract came into existence when a lot of problems became apparent with its predecessor, the Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC). Under that contract, the contractor would visit thrice a month. Initially there were five vendors distributed among the hostels out of which two were working sincerely, but the other three were slack, and faced several complaints from the student community. Consequently, the system was changed to have two vendors based on the rate-contract system, wherein the vendor visit would be scheduled on a needbased criteria by the CC, based on the complaints forwarded to them by the SysAds via the MLC.
As informed by the CC, there are 3 major problems which may arise in the LAN ports
1. Input/Output Box Broken: The old boxes were not designed to withstand the way they are handled by the students. However, new network I/O boxes have been installed, made of Molex, which are of excellent quality.
2. Rat Bites: These arise when a rat snaps the connecting cable between your room and the wing box. Particularly prevalent in H3, 4 and 5.
3. Power Outages: This is beyond the control of CC.It last occurred in the server room outside H8 a few months back.
GSHA (Abhishek Agarwal) speaks
There has been a drastic rise in the number of LAN related issues within the institute on account of the large number of infrastructural changes. Currently, the contractor takes about Rs 750 per visit, and usually stays within the institute for about 3–4 hours. He has a record about all the reported problems and he goes to all those rooms. Any materials that he may require need to be provided by the CC.
The GSHA feels that the current system, for all its faults, is still the best system that can be run under the circumstances. Other systems had been tried in the past, albeit unsuccessfully. A government contractor will be even more inefficient than the current private contractor, and separate contractors for separate hostels would be a lot more expensive for the institute to fund.
The Middle Layers Committee’s (MLC’s) view
Currently, all the complaints that are to be reported are in the hands of the System Administrator (SysAd). He then forwards these complaints to the MLC, who then wait for the complaints to build up to around 15–20 following which they send a request to the CC for the vendor. In case the number of complaints does not reach a sufficient total, but a large number of days have passed, the MLC does send the vendor for repairs. This takes approximately 20 days. However, such situations are fairly rare.
Complaints in the academic area are given preference over individual room complaints in hostels. To ensure that the vendors do their job (they almost never correct the hardware problems in the first visit), the CC is planning to send CC staff along with the vendor. However, there are only 13 people in the CC to take care of the problems. The MLC feels that there is need for more staff in the CC. They also feel that more workshops should be conducted to train the SysAds and the Comp Secys.
CC Head (Prof. D. Manjunath) Speaks
The CC head believes that delays are often exaggerated by students, and he stated that there is never any ‘real’ delay in repairing LAN ports,with all complaints being solved within a day or two. In spite of several infrastructural changes in the institute, they’ve worked hard to ensure that delays are at a minimum.
Regarding the lack of technical skill among the MLC members, and the need for workshops, the CC head felt that MLC matters are more administrative than technical in nature, and so the issue of training for the job doesn’t really arise. He further opined that the MLC appreciates the CC’s concerns and problems. On the issue of hiring more staff, he refused to comment.
CC Staff’s View
Following the contrasting views of the MLC and the CC on certain issues, we contacted we contacted Mr. Ashish M. Nagwekar, a staff in the CC and the person responsible for scheduling the vendor visits. He had some interesting insights on the issue-
The gymkhana website for registering complaints (http://gymkhana.iitb.ac.in/~network/complaint/index.php) is rarely used to schedule vendor visits, due to lack of awareness among the student community. Occasionally, there is irregularity on the MLC’s part in forwarding the complaints, and following up, which adds to the delays. Also, the gnats website (where complaints pertaining to firstname.lastname@example.org come in) is not used for scheduling, as most of the hostels are still following the SysAd complaint model. Another reason for not using gnats is that it is difficult to respond to each query individually. He further suggested that students should put complaints on these websites only if the concerned SysAds are following up on them.
The CC are dependent on the complaints sent by the SysAds for scheduling the vendor visits. Based on the data available from CC, it generally takes them two to five days to respond to the complaints forwarded by the SysAds. Occasionally, there are greater delays, but this happens due to the difficulty in matching the vendor availabilty to the SysAd availability ( as the SysAds have classes during the weekdays, and sometimes find it difficult to accommodate a vendor visit). Another point that he highlighted was that out of the four companies listed in the rate contract, only one is doing the job efficiently, which adds to the delays.
With the current lack of communication between the MLC and the CC, students invariably end up as the losers. Numerous incidents are reported where students have to wait for extremely long periods of time for repairs. The CC and MLC have taken steps to improve the situation, which has lead to a decrease in delays, but there is still scope for more work to be done. Better co-ordination amongst the principals would surely go a long way in resolving the issue and helping the student community.