While the majority of academic buildings on campus have at least some wireless access, plans to provide wireless in the dorms are still in the preliminary phases, leaving some students to question what’s taking so long.
The only dorm to have wireless access throughout the entire building to date is Mary Markley. Some dorms also have pilot programs that provide some wireless coverage.
Beth Loesch, director of Information Technology for University Housing, said that the reason wireless access in the dorms lags behind classroom buildings is because the classroom buildings have space in the ceilings and walls to lay cables for the technology. The walls of the residence halls are thicker, so to install wireless in the existing dorms the University has to install exposed tubing to run the necessary cables, Loesch said.
It would cost between $600 and $800,000 to outfit each dorm, Loesch said. Much of the work to outfit the dorms also has to be completed on an accelerated schedule during the Spring and Summer terms so that students aren’t disrupted, she said.
Loesch said another reason for the delay is that the wireless networks in the dorms need to have a higher level of security than the average wireless network.
Upgrading the dorms with wireless access is a priority listed in University President Mary Sue Coleman’s Residential Life and Learning Initiative launched in the fall of 2004, but Loesch said other more essential upgrades such as plumbing have affected the amount of resources the University can devote to improving wireless coverage.
Under the Initiative, a wireless pilot program was launched in Bursley Hall this semester. Complete wireless coverage in the dorm is expected by next fall.
Once Bursley’s pilot program is finished, Loesch said the University will have a better idea of how long to it will take to outfit all of the dormitories.
The University is also adding wireless Internet capability in the dorms that are scheduled for renovation or construction.
Wireless Internet access is being incorporated into North Quad’s construction, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009. Wireless will also be a feature of Mosher Jordan and Stockwell Halls when the dorms reopen after undergoing renovations.
While students wait for wireless coverage to be expanded, the University is working with the Residence Hall Association to determine priority locations for pilot networks.