Demand prompts campuses to increase wireless capacity
A decade ago, college students plugged in their laptops. Today, wireless connectivity is the norm.
Ever-increasing demand has local colleges expanding the capacity of their wireless Internet networks.
California University of Pennsylvania is embarking on an ambitious project that will give every student, faculty and staff member free Wi-Fi access. The initiative, which could cost up to $2.1 million, should be completed within the year, said Charles Mance, vice president for Cal's technology services.
Still, Cal hasn't been neglecting its wireless capability. The number of wireless access points, or "hot spots," has grown from 100 four years ago to about 350 today, Mance said. Jesse Josephic, 22, a senior majoring in computer science from North Huntingdon, rates the coverage as "pretty decent."
"It gets done what I need," Josephic said. "Certain areas are spotty. It definitely could improve."
Fewer students are plugging in to access the Internet -- even though that method provides the best productivity and speed, said Bill Balint, chief information officer at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
It also offers the best access. IUP has 17,000 places to plug in. Hot spots number only 725, still more than seven times the number in 2006, Balint said.
"As wireless devices have become dramatically more prominent, wireless access points become more and more important," he said.
Another way to measure how much Internet demand has grown on campuses is by the megabytes of bandwidth in their networks. A network's bandwidth is analogous to the pipes that deliver water to homes. Cal and IUP each had 10 MB of bandwidth a decade ago. Cal now has 300, and Balint projects IUP will have 400 in November. The University of Pittsburgh had 50 in 2000 and has 10 times as much today.
Most schools pay for Wi-Fi expansion and Internet service, in part, by charging students a technology fee.
For example, Pitt charges $175 per semester for full-time students and $100 for part-time students, said Jinx Walton, director of computing services and systems development.
Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned schools, such as Cal and IUP, charge $232 per year.
Each school monitors bandwidth usage, and officials pay for more when they need it, college and information officers said.
Internet service providers such as Verizon are doing their part, too, having learned how to quickly boost the ability of their networks to accommodate the arrival of thousands of students every fall.
Adding capacity "typically involves adding computing hardware to existing cell tower," spokeswoman Laura Merritt said.
Nearly $100 million in federal stimulus money awarded in February will be used to increase the wireless connectivity of nonurban universities, K-12 school districts, public safety groups and health care organizations, said Jeff Reel, executive director of the Keystone Initiative for Network-based Education and Research.
The 1,600-mile network will benefit 39 Pennsylvania counties, said Art Stephens, vice chancellor of the State System of Higher Education. The project is planned for completion by early 2013. Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania could be on board in early 2012.
"It's going to bring broadband to unserved and underserved communities," Reel said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCullers’, McLendon’s prowess in clogging trenches crucial to Steelers defense
- Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
- Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Rainy summer delays paving projects in New Kensington
- Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
- After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
- McCandless woman 1st in region with implant aimed at halting seizures
- Starting 9: Examining Pirates’ deadline decisions
- Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
- Reds solve Cole, stave off Pirates’ 9th-inning rally