Where’s the WiFi?

An attempt to find the best outdoor spots to connect to your next Zoom class

On a chilly November night, I woke to the sound of my phone ringing at almost two in the morning. When my groggy eyes finally decided to focus on the phone screen, I realized it was a Google Meet call from my boyfriend.


After my confusion for why a Google Meet call was necessary this late—his phone had died while on a late night walk—he let out an awkward chuckle and said, “Well, fun fact: the Eduroam WiFi works from Pioneer Square.” 


I think about that comment sometimes when I sit in my hot, stuffy dorm room for what feels like the zillionth Zoom meeting of the week. The virtual environment seemingly created the perfect opportunity to take classes and do meetings from anywhere, yet here I was sitting at a desk wanting to be anywhere but here.


That being said, I like to believe I am no stranger at finding odd places to take advantage of virtual learning. Doing class from an airport was going perfectly until I hit the 45-minutes-of-free-WiFi mark and was abruptly ejected from my 50-minute class. 


But that got me thinking: how far from my little dorm room will the school WiFi allow me to take my Zoom lectures?


In search of a simple answer, I reached out to the Office of Information Technology to see if they could help. Their answer, in short, was that WiFi is complicated and therefore they didn’t have a solid, concrete map of the WiFi boundaries.


I took that as less of a setback and more of a challenge as I set out to discover the wackiest places the school WiFi works in, and some weird places where it doesn’t.


For the sake of simplicity, I want to define school WiFi as what is available through PSU Secure and not include the Eduroam service that allows anyone with an Odin login to gain access to WiFi at thousands of colleges and university campuses throughout the world. I didn’t think it was fair to compile a list solely made of random universities on different continents. 


With my go-to Starbucks Pink Drink and WiFi-only iPad in hand, I started my journey to get in some well-needed steps and take on the challenge so you don’t have to. 


I started by walking through the Park Blocks. I  had no issues with connecting to the internet, but that didn’t feel like a discovery worth this whole page. Past the Walk of Heroines, things still seemed to be going well. Feel free to enjoy your Zoom lecture while watching the cute puppies at the dog park. 


Going further back, there’s a path that runs between Hoffman Hall and the Peter W. Scott Community Field that leads to an entrance on to the back of the field. If you are interested in standing directly behind the field goal post to watch games or practices with no blocked view and don’t mind the loud highway directly behind you, this might be for you, but if you’re looking for a view while taking your next Zoom work meeting, I would call this a hard pass. The internet will work a solid 5% of the time, though if you have a coworker that won’t shut up in meetings, I guess missing 95% isn’t that bad. 


Coming back around, if you have been eyeing the playground at the end of the Park Blocks behind the Native American Student and Community Center (NASCC); hoping to take a few trips down the slide when breakout rooms hit that awkward silence, I have some bad news for you: the school WiFi is non-existent. You are not connecting to that Zoom meeting at all. However, if the meeting is not that important, you might be able to make friends with a fluffy cat and dog like I did while I was there. 


Walking towards the NASCC and the Broadway Residence Hall, I struggled to connect to WiFi until I was walking directly next to Broadway. Although the WiFi worked decently well while within an arm’s reach of the building, once a few steps away—not even quite at Mak’s Mini Mart—it cut out again.


Going even farther south, I wanted to check the WiFi near the 4th Ave. food carts, given their prime location between Ondine and the engineering building. It worked—well, most of the time.  


Oddly enough, I had little trouble connecting to the WiFi outside of the CVS on SW Harrison—that was, until I took my first step inside. With the excitement of finding cool places fading, I bought Nestlé Dibs ice cream to keep my spirit high as I finished my rounds and headed back towards the Park Blocks. 


I walked along the Park Blocks past Fariborz Maseeh Hall, then Smith Memorial Student Union, then Cramer and Lincoln Hall, getting superb access next to each building with only a little difficulty for brief moments between buildings.  


In the Park Blocks between Lincoln and the old Parkway Residence Hall sits a streetcar stop that is probably the furthest place you will get a solid-enough connection to catch your whole Zoom lecture, but quite frankly, at this point, why would you? In my opinion, it would probably be easier to get an italian cream soda and overpriced sandwich from the Park Ave. cafe and leach on their free WiFi. 


Maybe this list would have been more interesting if I just listed universities in other countries you could connect to through the Eduroam WiFi. In conclusion, if you were hoping to take your next Zoom meeting outside, beware: the WiFi arguably sucks ass.