Student Federation sent out a survey last week asking students what they would do with $5,000 to improve campus. Fifty-six percent of students said they wanted Wi-Fi in the dorms.
Unfortunately, according to David Zenz, executive director of ITS, the cost of that project could be more than $200,000.
Zenz said it has been several years since they looked into it and he did not have exact prices, but the working numbers were $170,000 to finish the edge switches, while the wireless would clock in at $77,000.
Patrick Chartrand, network systems manager, explained the cost for each access point, such as a high-end modem, in a building can cost upwards of $1,000 once infrastructure, wiring, and switch costs are all considered.
With the number of residences, Wi-Fi would be placed in along with the number of access points needed in each building, the costs quickly skyrocket. In addition, POE (power over ethernet switches) would provide ITS with more freedom, but are also more expensive.
Zenz also explained there was a time, “back in the day,” when there were no other wireless devices allowed on Hillsdale’s network. However, times have changed and now there is a theory called, BYOD (bring your own device.)
These devices include Xboxs, Apple Time Machines, and Tivo devices that often have their own Wi-Fi connections.
The problem with these devices is that their signals cancel out the school’s network signal. Associate Dean of Women Rebekah Dell mentioned that the Suites is the only residence hall with wireless connection. Because the wireless connection was too slow for students’ preferences, students brought their own modems. However, these modems fight with the school’s wireless.
Chartrand said each access point can only support three signals, and the other day there were 22 “rogue devices” creating dead zones on the second floor of the Suites.
Zenz said that our wired network is old and in need of replacement.
“The wired network is the foundation upon which you build a robust wireless network,” Zenz said. “Since we lack funding for this particular purpose, switch replacement and Wi-Fi access point placement, embracing BYOD makes good use of the the varied devices, some Wi-Fi capable, that students bring with them.”
When money becomes available, replacing the switches would provide a better environment for our existing BYOD system.
Dell said the Wi-Fi issue is definitely on the forefront of the college’s mind.
“It is on the radar, and any and all future dorms will be wireless,” Dell said, “It is something we are phasing in.”
However, she said it is financially more cost efficient to wait until renovations on these older buildings are made before they add Wi-Fi.
“It would be a very expensive patch when we want to solve the problem,” Dell said.
The college has plans to make these renovations within the next five to 10 years, depending on donations.
“We consciously try to think of ways to make this better for students,” Zenz said.
Junior David Wilhelmsen, student federation president, asked Zenz what could be done with the $5,000 Student Fed has.
“If we approve $5,000 today, ITS will immediately begin installing a better system in the Union and comprehensive Wi-Fi for the quad.”
Whilhelmsen also said Zenz agreed to support Wi-Fi for campus housing. Student Federation will partner with ITS and the administration to cover the costs, and it could very realistically be done this year.
“As president, I am putting my full support behind these measures,” Whilhelmsen said. “I expect the majority of Student Federation will follow suit since Wi-Fi has such broad support the student body at large.”