Jan. 6, 2011

2011 will bring speedier wireless to campus

by Diana Pounds

Patience is a necessary virtue for Memorial Union food court patrons who engage in wireless web surfing while they lunch. As diners overwhelm the wireless access points in the court, connections slow to a crawl.

However, help is on the way for those toting wireless devices in the food court and other popular spots on campus. Information technology services staff soon will begin a project to add 100 new wireless access points to high-traffic wireless spots around campus. The project is a result of a fall call for proposals from the Computation Advisory Committee, the group that oversees spending of student technology fees.

Team-oriented routers

The access points, which employ the latest technology, can be networked in high-demand places like the MU food court, said Jennifer Lohrbach, senior systems analyst in information technology services and leader of the project.

"Networked access points will work with each other to distribute the load," Lohrbach said. "If there's too much traffic on an access point in one section of the food court, for example, another nearby access point will extend its coverage and take on some of the load."

Lohrbach said half of the new access points will be installed in high-demand areas, determined by ITS staff. ISU students will determine where the other access points will go.

"Since this is leveraging student technology fee dollars, we'll do an online survey and let students vote on where they want us to install the remaining access points," she said.

Funded by student computer fees

The $350,541 wireless access project is funded by student technology fees. It was approved by the Computation Advisory Committee, a group that helps determine how computer fee money will be spent. The committee, a mix of students, faculty and staff, periodically seeks proposals that broadly impact student computing or demonstrate innovative uses of information technology for instruction. CAC will call for proposals for innovative projects again in spring 2011.

Wireless spots on campus

Approximately 100 buildings on campus offer wireless access in one or more rooms. Outdoor areas that are wireless include central campus, the lawn between Parks Library and the Enrollment Services Center, and the courtyard on the south side of the Scheman Building.

While there is a longer term campus plan to replace and upgrade campus wireless access points, the 100 new access points resulting from this project will primarily go into areas that currently do not have wireless access, Lohrbach said.