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Wireless Internet now working in all residence halls

Emma Driscoll | Monday, September 4, 2006

Accessing the Internet at Notre Dame just got a little easier, thanks to the completion of the wireless Internet installation project within all residences halls.

The project allows students to utilize the Internet not only from their dorm rooms, but also in all buildings that serve “an academic” or “residential” purpose, said Dewitt Latimer, assistant provost for the Office of Information Technologies (OIT).

The physical installation of wireless was finished on the July 19, University Program Manager for Strategic Initiatives Planning and Programs Robert Guthrie said.

Lewis Hall, Farley Hall, Pasquerilla East and Pasquerilla West were the last dorms to receive wireless.

Each of these three dorms either required additional construction to install wireless or were previously under construction, prohibiting immediate installation, Guthrie said.

In October 2005, Residence Life and Housing and the OIT collaborated to make plans for the installation of wireless Internet access in all of the residence halls on campus, Guthrie said.

The decision to include wireless Internet access within residence halls was the result of “a trend of a greater percentage of students coming in [to Notre Dame] with laptops,” Latimer said, noting that most laptops made within the last four years contain wireless network cards.

“We were getting data points from multiple sources saying that lack of wireless was a detriment to residential life, and adding it would be beneficial to the students in the halls,” Latimer said.

Latimer said OIT learned from “multiple sources” – such as yearly surveys -“that lack of wireless was a detriment to residential life, and adding it would be beneficial to the students in the halls.”

“As a service provider, we obviously want to provide the services that our constituents want and need,” he said.

“We leveraged the fact that we were having to re-cable the dorms,” Latimer said, which made the cost “marginal to [what the cost would have been] going back three years ago and trying to do it. Now was the time.”

Farley Hall rector Carrine Etheridge said the wireless Internet “certainly does provide a lot of flexibility for the students.”

Etheridge has noticed students are able to study in groups in the dorm study lounges and can bring their computers everywhere on campus.

“I think it has made things so much more convenient for them,” she said. “I’m glad something is convenient for them.”

While Etheridge said she has heard complaints from her residents about their cell phone service, the wireless Internet service has not been a problem in Farley.

“I haven’t heard any complaints – it seems okay,” Etheridge said.

While surfing Web sites, checking e-mail and instant messaging work with wireless, some Internet uses are better suited to a wired connection.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of students not understanding how wireless works,” Latimer said. “A lot of students assume that wireless is not a shared environment – that their actions don’t affect anyone else. That is true for a wired network, but not for a wireless.”

For users to take part in a wireless network, their computer connects through radio to an access point that is shared by other wireless users, Guthrie said.

If a student downloads a video that requires a lot of network space, the student slows down not only his or her own Internet but also the Internet for all other users accessing wireless through the same shared access point.

Senior Ashley Kelly said she thought people have been misusing the wireless and causing service to be slower.

“I think everyone was under the impression that the wireless would be our main Internet access, but with everybody using it, it’s just been slow and unreliable,” Kelly said.

“Hopefully later on people will switch back to using their cords like I did, or maybe OIT will find some way to fix it.”

Sophomore Nathan Cutler noticed that the wireless Internet has been slower for downloads, but works well for general uses such as e-mailing.

Freshmen Amanda Zofkie and Gina Lizama both said they have not experienced any problems with their wireless connections.

Zofkie has been using wired connection in her dorm room, but uses wireless access in other places such as classes and study lounges, and has found wireless to be very convenient.

“You don’t have to carry your cord around all the time,” she said.

The Office of Information Technology sent out an e-mail to students last week regarding proper uses for using wireless Internet, and Guthrie encourages students using the Internet to download videos or play games to use wired Internet access, which he said is still a faster connection.

Senior Matt Plaska agreed.

“The wired is a little bit faster,” he said. “You know it’s always going to work so you don’t have to worry about network.”

And there are “just some things” students should do on the wired ResNet connection, Guthrie said.

“It will be better for you and it will be better for everybody else,” he said.