Residence hall WiFi almost ready

Posted by Jake Dolgenos

Laptop and smartphone owners will soon have something to celebrate as the prospect of wireless Internet access in the residence halls becomes a reality in the next few days.

The new wireless coverage will supplement the existing network already available in the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall, Case Center, the Scribner Library and the academic buildings.

The original plan was to have the wireless system functional by move-in weekend, Sept. 4-5, but a hectic summer of renovations and unexpected technical snags delayed the new network's launch, explained Justin Sipher, the college's chief technology officer.

Under a renegotiated contract with provider Time Warner Cable, the new system will allow students to access the Internet without being tethered to a modem. Students should resist the urge to burn their Ethernet cables, however, as the wireless network is not intended to replace the existing system.

"Your best experience will always be through your cable modem. So my advice is, if you're at your desk, plug in and use this service which really is dedicated to you, and then use the wireless network when you're away from your desk, in the lounge or outside," Sipher said.

"Five years ago we partnered with Time Warner Cable to take advantage of its Roadrunner service, which is its broadband network service, to support our students. But more and more students are not bringing desktop computers and leaving them on their desks; they're bringing laptops and handhelds and even tablets. We wanted to adapt to that. So, at the end of the five year contract, when it came time to renegotiate, we said ‘we've got to find a mobile solution to go on top of, but not replace, the modems,'" Sipher said.

Sipher says he sees wireless as someday being the dominant, and perhaps only, option for Internet connection at Skidmore. He wanted the new service to act as a pilot for the future – a step forward to slowly transition Skidmore from one system to another.

In addition to Sipher's advice to plug in Ethernet cables, he also suggests students refrain from using their own wireless routers.

"Students should resist the urge to install their own personal modem or wireless access point, because it uses similar channels and it can create problems for them or others who may have trouble connecting. If you know of a particular problem area, let us know. We won't be able to test every room, but we can't fix a problem we don't know about," Sipher said.

As part of the renegotiated contract, Time Warner no longer provides free HBO. "For those students who needed HBO, who were hooked on one of the shows, there's an avenue to buy that as well," Sipher said.

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