Wireless upgrades to come, but maybe not as early as anticipated

A completely wireless campus will likely not be implemented by move-in day 2010, but the university is moving toward installation of wireless technology across campus.
Student Senate voted in December to install wireless Internet in dormitories and the St. James Apartment Complex. After examining the school’s needs and obtaining estimates, the university has chosen Cisco for its expanded, revamped wireless system.
“Our intent is to improve the quality of the wireless network on campus so that the service level meets student and faculty expectations everywhere,” Associate Provost for Information Resources and Technology Chuck Ruch said.
Cisco will allow the school to use the equipment already installed as it makes the transition, instead of having to replace the equipment all at once. This will also provide for a smoother transition from the old setup to the new, Ruch said.
While a number of campus areas are wireless now, including academic buildings, the networks are separate. With the new system, service would be a coordinated network solution, Ruch said.
Though senate’s goal was to have wireless dorms by move-in day, it’s unclear whether this will be viable.
“It would be extremely difficult to satisfy the senate timeline,” Ruch said.
Still, Student Senate Vice President Tricia Anklan said it’s not impossible.
“We will push really hard,” she said. “We expect it to happen. It should have happened a long time ago.”
The details of the project are still being worked out, Ruch said. After that, “senior leadership will consider the project and identify how and when we proceed,” he said.
A major issue the university hasn’t yet addressed is funding for the project.
Installation of the new system will cost “upwards of a million dollars or thereabouts,” Ruch said.
But Anklan said the funding for the project hasn’t been allocated yet. Original estimates in February put the cost at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ruch told the Scout in February that students expect the mobility and convenience of wireless Internet, especially since 91 percent of incoming freshmen brought laptop computers this year.
While having to be plugged in at a desk isn’t horrible, it’s definitely not convenient, freshman retail merchandising major Ali McCarty said.
“It’s just helpful to be able to sit somewhere other than your desk to work on things,” she said. “It brings in a new surrounding while you do your studying.”
McCarty said students on the lower floors in her dorm, University Hall, can sometimes pick up the wireless connection from the lobby. But others are tethered to the wall.