Show Me the Bandwidth—And Some American Idol Lovin’

When I got up early this morning to watch YouTube montages that suggest American Idol’s Lauren and Scotty are dating (please be true), I didn’t have the time or patience for slow Internet service. I had a bus to catch and a limited amount of time to live vicariously through these two teenagers.

While some would argue that I could still function day-to-day with poor Internet speed—and without analyzing whether Scotty said “love you, baby” in a platonic or romantic way (but seriously, what do you think?)—there’s no denying that college students depend on bandwidth.

Students demand high-quality Internet access, and as I discovered while writing the article, “Better Bring the Bandwidth” for the June issue of units, according to a recent survey conducted by J Turner Research, 64 percent are willing to relocate if speeds don’t meet their expectations.

Of the 10,288 students (a 20 percent response rate) who responded to the survey, which examined the importance of technology in student housing, 56 percent of these students also claim they spend between three and five hours on the Internet every day, with another 16 percent spending between five and six hours online.

If my college experience was anything like that of my peers, I’m going to say a good portion of that time is spent trolling Facebook. But another chunk is inevitably dedicated to those last-minute research papers and online assignments, when Internet speed is essential. College students procrastinate—this is a fact. When they’re feverishly finishing an assignment minutes before it’s due, there’s no room for technological errors to get in the way.

During an education session at NAA’s Student Housing Conference in February, panelists Christine Richards, Senior Vice President for Education Realty Trust, and Miles Orth, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Campus Apartments, acknowledged the importance of delivering the best bandwidth possible in today’s tech-savvy student housing market.

Following are five tips on how to do so:

1. Monitor bandwidth. It’s kind of like stepping on the scale once a month. Sometimes problems—or problem areas—sneak up on you if you’re not taking regular inventory. Let my 13-pound weight gain during my semester abroad be a lesson for you student housing companies.

2. Evaluate infrastructure (and take control). If you own the infrastructure, you’re engaged with how bandwidth is delivered, Orth says. Don’t let third-party companies decide how you’re going to do business. 

3. Have a plan to infuse capital. Contrary to what Notorious B.I.G. said, mo’ money, (no) mo’ problems.

4. Enlist help from experts. If you don’t know the difference between megabits and megabytes—and, while you’re baring your soul, the difference between a colon and a semicolon—then you should probably find someone who specializes in technology.

5. Survey your residents. Just because residents aren’t complaining doesn’t mean something isn’t wrong (other than their laziness). Your Internet service may be terrible, but you won’t know until you ask—or everyone moves out.

For more on Internet speed, check out my article in the June issue of units, which mails June 8.

If you have any additional bandwidth tips, send them to lauren@naahq.org. If you have any additional thoughts on Scotty and Lauren, send them to my personal Gmail account.