Senate supports captive campus cell signal upgrade

Student Senate passed a resolution at its meeting Monday supporting improved cell phone reception on campus, after talks with local cell providers ground to a standstill.

The university met last year with local cell phone companies to increase cell signal in buildings on campus.

But talks aren’t going anywhere this year, said Craig Mey, the director of Learning and Technology Services. Providers said they would help with reception costs, but aren’t willing to make an
initial investment.

“It’s a cat and mouse game,” Mey said. “It’s a significant investment. They’ve said if the other carrier does it, then they’ll jump on and contribute, but no one wants to be the first one to do it. They’re waiting for the other guy to solve the problem so it becomes a spin cycle.”

Mey said the university discovered insulated glass in the Davies Center and the education building didn’t just block cold weather, it also slowed cell phone signals.

Cell reception is also bad in other buildings, Mey said, because the Eau Claire campus was built in a valley, which cell signals have trouble reaching.

The lack of communication  has been frustrating, student Senator Christian Paese said. But he’s hopeful the resolution will coerce companies to re-open talks.

“Communication is now shut off,” Paese said. “Hopefully through this resolution the stakeholders will listen.”

The university isn’t out of options though, Mey said. If Eau Claire makes an initial investment in infrastructure, cell companies could jump on board and reimburse the university.

Mey said the university is also talking with the project manager in charge of the education building’s construction.  It’s possible the building could be wired as a cell reception hotspot serving other buildings on campus.

Senate’s resolution will send a message to stakeholders, but Mey said he isn’t confident poor cell reception will be fixed soon. Private companies aren’t as motivated to make investments on campus.

“I thought we were close a year ago, my confidence level isn’t more than 50 percent,” Mey said.  “(The resolution) would just elevate the problem and make it more visible.”


In other senate news

Senate will vote next week on a blanket health and wellness committee to swallow up temporary health-related committees.

Student Body President Bryan Larson said in the past, senate has held lots of short-lived health-related committees. The student health and wellness committee would roll other wellness committees together.

“This bill seeks to combine temporary health and wellness committees,” Larson said. “It will open a more broad general discussion on health and wellness on campus.”

The health and wellness committee will oversee Student Health Service, Counseling Services, Dining Services and Recreation.

Senate will vote next week on a resolution supporting a pending university senate decision that could raise the number of physical education credits that count toward graduation.

Senate supports raising the number of allowable physical activity credits. According to the resolution, allowing students to take more credits “will allow greater flexibility for the students of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.”