Univ. to expand wireless network

Having expanded wireless Internet access in three classroom buildings over the summer, administrators are preparing to unveil a new initiative that will offer a connection to the Web wherever it is needed.

The plan will extend wireless access to all areas where it is in demand over the next two years, including student dorm rooms, according to administrators in Information Technology Services. Details will be unveiled later this fall, but some faculty are already expressing concerns that Internet access in classrooms is more trouble than it’s worth.

Dan Vargas ‘10 uses the wireless internet on his computer in the Morse library. The University will add wireless Internet to dorms and other facilities in the next two years
Matt Lucas
Dan Vargas ‘10 uses the wireless internet on his computer in the Morse library. The University will add wireless Internet to dorms and other facilities in the next two years

Charles Powell, director of academic media and technology, said that over the summer wireless Internet access was increased to fully cover three classroom buildings: Linsly-Chittenden Hall, William L. Harkness Hall and the Hall of Graduate Studies. The recent work was spurred by an increased demand for Internet in classrooms from both faculty and students, said Joseph Paolillo, senior director of infrastructure services.

“We’re not putting the access there speculatively,” Paolillo said.

Since 2001, the University has focused on providing wireless Internet access points throughout many public spaces on campus. There are currently approximately 1,500 access points in 100 buildings, he said.

In the past, there was no need for wireless Internet access in student dorms, because students were mainly using desktop computers and could connect to the Internet via cable connections. Now, however, 93 percent of students use laptop computers, according to materials provided to the freshman class by Yale’s Student Computing group.

In addition, the decrease in the cost of access points has made the University more eager to provide wireless Internet in dorm rooms. Excluding installation costs, access points currently cost about $500 each, whereas in 2001 they cost around $1,000 each, he said.

These factors have led to the creation of a master plan that aims to bring “wireless to the pillow,” Powell said.

The exact specifics of the plan, including the cost of providing access to the remaining residential colleges, are not yet known, Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said.

Timothy Dwight and Silliman Colleges have served as models for the program, as these two recently renovated residential colleges feature total wireless coverage, Paolillo said. Other colleges have had wireless Internet access in their common spaces, including dining halls, libraries and some courtyards, for years.

However, even as the University becomes more ambitious in this program, installations will still be based on demand.

“It probably would not make sense to put wireless Internet access in the horse stables,” Paolillo said.

Some professors expressed concern with the expanded wireless access, as it could prove to be a distraction in class.

“Self-policing sounds like a good and fair policy, but I do not know if it is so realistic in the YouTube age,” political science professor Stuart Gottlieb said. “It is fine for a class that requires access to the Internet for the lectures, but beyond that, computers should just be used for note-taking.”

But administrators said they do not have much interest in regulating what students do on their computers during class.

“It would be inordinately and administratively burdensome, and run a great risk of infringing upon academic freedom, for us to think about what students or faculty should have access to online,” Powell said.

Furthermore, the fact that cell phones and hand-held devices now also provide access to the Internet makes restricting students’ online habits during class virtually impossible, Suttle said.

Some students said Internet access can be useful in a classroom setting, particularly for looking up information or finding academic resources. Ben Stango ’11 said he is looking forward to the coming expansion.

“I think, in a perfect world, the entire campus would be wireless,” he said.

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