Wi-Fi access expanded to most buildings on campus

By Ryan Shelton, Asst. News Editor

After nearly three years and $600,000, the U’s comprehensive campus wireless Internet access initiative is entering its final stage.

By December, almost every building on campus will be equipped with high-speed wireless Internet access for students and faculty with laptops or internet-capable cell phones. The Office of Information Technology is also working to bring the Web outdoors through an extended wireless range surrounding the Marriott Library, Business Loop, College of Engineering building and Presidents’ Circle.

Kevin Taylor, the planning and policy director for the Office of Information Technology, said the wireless project will never be totally finished as the school keeps pace with a growing campus, evolving technology and increasing demand for wireless access.

“It’s more difficult to find a place that doesn’t have wireless access on our campus than a place that does,” Taylor said. “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a shift from more of a departmental implementation to a campus-wide system, which has been beneficial to everyone on campus.”

There are a handful of departments, like the law school, that operate wireless systems independent from the campus U-Connect server. However, Taylor said there have been recent discussions to incorporate those departments into the main system.

On an average day, there are around 10,000 connections to the wireless network with up to 2,500 simultaneous users at any given moment during the peak hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each week day, Taylor said.

As more students bring laptops to campus, notepads and binders8212;once the preferred note-taking tools8212;are being replaced. But some U instructors worry that the proliferation of laptops has resulted in lack of concentration in the classroom as students can’t seem to resist checking sports scores and Facebook accounts during class.

Paul Rose, a professor in the department of communication, said he has often seen students using their laptops to play online card games and check their e-mail.

“I was opposed to having wireless in the classrooms because it adds yet another distraction,” Rose said. “I think it’s a problem, but there are other distractions like cell phones. But in the end, the students paid for the class and it’s the responsibility of the professor to make lectures engaging.”

Student Monitor, a college student market research group, reports that 88 percent of students access the Internet at least once a day, and spend an average of 19 hours a week surfing the Web, twice as much as in 2000. The study also found that of the 77 percent of college students who plan to buy a computer in the next year, more than 66 percent prefer laptops over the more traditional desktop models.

Nathaniel Hinckley, a sophomore theatre major, said he brings his laptop to campus primarily for internet access.

“I don’t bring it to campus every day like some people, but it has been a distraction in the past during classes,” Hinckley said.

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that the average price for new laptops is around $1,0008212;a 64 percent drop from 2001. If the trend continues, students could be paying as little as $600 for new laptops in 2015, making the Internet more accessible than ever.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Clayton Norlen

In the F-Stop coffee shop business students Amanda Slatter, Collin Chirstensen, Paige Naisbitt and Steve Harbertson work on an advanced management presentation. ?We used the Internet to gather information from each student and put it into one presentation,? Chirstensen said.