NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - Spc. Christopher Bowser visits the Camp America liberty center almost every day to hop on the Internet. The military police officer with the 357th Military Police Company said he uses it to keep in touch with his family back in the states, but that’s not always possible because, often times, the Internet is down.
“The recent outages upset a couple soldiers, but I figure having access to the Internet is a bonus, so if it goes down, it’s not a problem for me,” said Bowser.
But the frustrations sweeping across Camp America and other places around the Joint Task Force Guantanamo and Naval Station Guantanamo are something that leadership and the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office has taken note of.
“We know that is very frustrating for everyone, it is frustrating for us,” said Tara Culbertson, MWR director.
“We’ve purchased a new $25,000 server we hope to have up-and-running by August,” she said. “The old server was designed for a place like a hotel with multiple locations located nearby one another, but we have out-grown that."
“The new server is modeled off a college campus because we have more than 30 wireless hotspots here at Guantanamo,” she said.
The new server is designed to improve the service to troopers rotating in and out. Leadership, Culbertson said, knows how much Troopers rely on the Internet to stay in touch with friends and family.
“The new server is really going to help us so that you can use it to Facebook or for Skype,” she said. “But I do want to caution our customers, that I don’t have any expectation that it is going to improve the speed, but it is going to improve the reliability.”
According to Culbertson, speed is a separate issue.
“We are buying well over $500,000 in Internet bandwidth per fiscal year,” said Culbertson. “That’s pretty incredible and expensive, but it’s also the No. 1 issue for morale for our troops, so it’s incredibly important for us to provide that.”
Culbertson says MWR on base shares 12 megabytes per second. She said the base is buying as much connectivity as is available currently, but it’s not just iTunes or Skype that steals bandwidth.
“It’s not just the Wi-Fi and the computers in the liberty centers, it’s shared with the credit cards in the clubs and how we run our warehouse network. It’s a large and complex network that we run,” she said.
MWR started purchasing bandwidth from SCSI about two years ago. They previously used a satellite service, but were able to get more bandwidth for less money through SCSI.
“There was a rumor that we were snatching Internet capabilities from people who purchase it in their barracks or their homes,” said Culbertson. “But that is not the case, it’s a separate pipe that we use.”
Currently, there’s not much you can do if the Internet goes down, but MWR says you can help mitigate the lag time.
“Everyone wants to get on at the same time in the evening and it gets very slow,” said Culbertson. “If you can time your call over lunchtime or during your break, you will probably get higher speeds.”