The UCSB campus will soon have more locations where students can access wireless Internet networks.
The Office of Information Technology plans to install wireless Internet service in Campbell Hall, the walkway from Campbell Hall to Davidson Library, the area around Corwin Pavilion and the walkway from the UCen to Pardall Road sometime during Fall Quarter quarter.
The system – which is both Mac- and PC-compatible – joins the already existing locations in the UCen and Davidson Library that give students a free wireless Internet connection.
“I would imagine at some point the entire campus will be wireless,” said Larry Carver, head of UCSB’s Davidson Library Map and Imagery Laboratory. “We’re doing wireless [in Davidson Library] because we feel the students need it.”
A wireless Internet connection is created through devices called access points, which are physically connected to a cable modem, DSL line or any Internet connection. The access points transmit a signal within a limited range to computers that are equipped with a wireless Internet connection card.
Students must log on to the wireless system using the same username and password they use to access their university U-Mail account. Such a measure assures that students can be held accountable for any illegal activities conducted online by allowing the system administrators to trace such activities back to the user, said Kevin Schmidt, a campus network programmer.
Schmidt said the wireless connection is not without its problems.
“The further you are from the access point the weaker your signal is … and your speed decreases,” Schmidt said.
Additionally, a lack of general encryption protection makes it easier for users to spy on each other’s Internet activity, Schmidt said. Other potential wireless connection difficulties include identifying and correcting individual computers’ viruses, peer-to-peer file sharing problems, and the lack of a standard wireless infrastructure, which is responsible for the bandwidth of the connection.
Carver said the library must find a standard wireless infrastructure for the service to be successful. Currently, there are three different versions of wireless infrastructure: 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. The UCen and Davidson Library use 802.11b.
Until the market clearly decides which version is dominant, it will be difficult to establish large wireless connection systems, Schmidt said.
Carver said this lack of a standard infrastructure is also affecting the cost of wireless connection systems. Currently, the UCen Bookstore sells Apple AirPort Express access points – two of which are used in the UCen – for $185.00. Wireless connection computer cards – the only piece of hardware the wireless service requires – are $93.00 for Apple computers and $40.00 to $65.00 for PCs. Although it is possible for the price of systems to decrease as a standard is set, added features to the systems and increased performance capability may preserve the present cost, Carver said.
Despite its potential problems and expenses, UCen Assistant Director of Marketing Gary Lawrence said he has received no complaints about the wireless Internet service.
“I’m amazed at how many people are using it now,” Lawrence said.
Senior communications major Ryan Gardner said he uses the UCen’s wireless service roughly four to five times a month.
“I think it’s great – it’s definitely fast enough,” Gardner said. “It’s a must to have wireless.”
Although wireless connection systems have yet to replace hardwire connections, the Office of Information Technology will continue to implement and experiment with the systems on campus, Schmidt said.
“If the prototype goes well we hope to get funding [from the university],” Schmidt said. “I’m looking forward to seeing where wireless goes.”