YSU Wireless network to go campuswide

YSU's Master Technology Plan calls for installing wireless network access.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A wireless computer system now being tested in Youngstown State University's Maag Library will be the start of a campuswide wireless network that could revolutionize computing services at YSU.
"Wireless is simply more flexible, and flexibility is something both students and faculty want," said Donna Esterly, YSU interim chief technology officer. "Students more and more want the ability to do their work where they are, rather than having to go to a computer lab. Faculty members want the capability to teach using laptop computers in the classroom. Wireless networks provide that."
The YSU campus, from residence halls to classrooms, has been wired for several years, allowing students, faculty and staff to access online services from the comfort of their dorm rooms or offices. The campus, however, is not configured for wireless services, which allow access to the Internet from a laptop computer without connecting into a wired line.
With a wireless system, for example, a student could access the campus network through a laptop computer while eating lunch at Kilcawley Center or while relaxing in a study lounge in Moser Hall.
Growing trend
Mark Welton, an analyst in Network Services at YSU, said the University of Akron already has installed a campuswide wireless network and several other Northeast Ohio universities are in the process of testing their own systems.
"In five years, the majority of campuses will be wireless," he said. "It's becoming a necessity."
YSU's recently released Master Technology Plan calls for installing wireless network access in a minimum of two campus buildings per year, said Tom Doctor, director of Network Services.
Nearly a year ago, Doctor and his staff began planning the wireless pilot project at Maag Library to serve as a model for other building configurations.
Paul Kobulnicky, Maag director, said the library is a perfect place to test the system because Maag gets students, faculty and staff using computers for a wide variety of reasons, from checking e-mail to conducting extensive literature searches.
Using 20 computers
In late September, wireless access points and antennas were installed throughout the six floors of the library, and in November the university bought 20 wireless notebook computers for the test.
The pilot project, which began this week and runs through the end of the semester, allows students, faculty and staff to borrow one of the state-of-the-art notebook computers and to use it anywhere in the library for up to three hours, Doctor said.
After the Maag pilot, wireless installation is likely to expand first to buildings with academic classrooms and laboratories, and then to other areas such as Kilcawley Center, Esterly said.
"Our major concern is the security of the system," she said. "That's why we're moving cautiously."
The Maag pilot, including installation of the access points and purchase of the notebook computers, cost nearly $70,000, Doctor said. Esterly said it is too early to estimate the total cost of installing wireless technology campuswide.