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UBIT’s Dead Line Detectives

UBIT Network Analyst Marc Doull among a sea of analog wires

Article and Photos By Blake Cooper

Published August 19, 2014

Recently, a group of UBIT student assistants began working on a database to trace and catalog hundreds of analog phone lines across UB’s campuses. Their work resulted in the discovery and removal of over 250 unused lines, which wouldn't make sense for the university to keep active.

Blake Cooper (UB Student, Class of 2016) is originally from Canandaigua, NY. He is studying Spanish, Linguistics and Comparative Literature, and beginning work on translating an Argentinian novel into English.

Starting the Quest

Wires upon wires with UBIT Network Analyst Marc Doull

The project began in 2013 as a collaboration between University Police and UBIT’s Network and Classroom Services (NCS) to create a new system for determining the location of emergency phone calls. But UBIT Network Analyst Marc Doull quickly realized the task was going to be larger than anticipated.

“We knew where some of these lines were,” Marc said. “But we started to ask: what are they doing? Are they fax lines? Alarm lines? Elevator phones?”

After looking through university phone records, which often included vague or out-of-date information, Marc decided to enlist the student assistants in his department to begin the unenviable task of physically tracing the lines in order to document them.

The Students Behind Us

“We treat our student assistants in many respects like full-time workers,” Marc said. “They do a lot of field work. They travel all over UB’s campuses.”

Brennan Dubuc (Class of 2015) is a Civil Engineering student at UB, and spent his summer working on the analog line cleanup project.

The work Brennan and his fellow students undertook involved physically traveling to buildings all over UB’s three campuses and manually testing each line to see if it rang. If it did, and no information was listed, they then needed to trace the line to a specific location within the building.

“We would find some used lines along the way that may have had incorrect information listed,” Brennan said, “The wrong room or even the wrong building, which we would then update.” He emphasized how this work supported the department’s original goal of making the campuses safer.

“If someone were to call the police from an analog line whose room number was wrong...[they] would be looking for an emergency in the wrong room.”

Thanks to the work of Brennan and his fellow students, UBIT also began the process of eliminating the unused lines. “If there was no use for a line, we would remove the connection,” said Brennan. “And if nobody made any complaints within 30 days, we put an order in to Verizon to have those lines deactivated.”

Matt Stoklosa studies Computer Information Systems at Buffalo State (Class of 2015), and also worked with Marc’s team on the phone line project. “Now we can spend less time looking for lines and more time working to service the ones that need it," Matt said, adding that this efficiency will save more time and money for the university in the future.

Marc stresses the benefits of an updated, ordered and, above all, accurate database. “My thought is: what’s the point of having a documentation system if it’s not accurate?” The new system of record keeping, according to Marc, is designed to check for duplicate and inaccurate entries automatically. “80% accuracy isn’t good enough; we’re striving for 100%.”

Drop Us a Line

UB students interested in working with UBIT should regularly check for job opportunities on our website and on Facebook and Twitter (@UBinfotech).