Columns / Discourse / Student Senate / November 5, 2008

The Senate Perspective: No wires good!

Hi, it’s your favorite technology chair here to reassure you (in light of nascent nay-saying) that our move to an all-wireless system is going to be a good thing. Our network hardware lease is almost up, and this summer we’re going to phase out the residential ethernet ports that ten to 12 percent of the student body have come to know and love.

The case:

Leaving two active ports per room (the status quo) is wasteful…there is simply not enough use to justify the upkeep. Leaving one active port per room (the previously-discussed solution) is bad for a number of reasons: first, the school would save $310,000 on the network switches that control all the ports we are giving up…if we leave one port per room, that number is halved; second, the annual energy required to run those switches would power a large home for nine years; finally, leaving one port per room creates a nightmare for housing assignments, as we’d have to place students based on who wants ethernet access.

Of the student body, 76-84 percent use the current wireless system exclusively. The current wireless system has problems, but it was originally intended to be a backup for our wired network, not a full-time, full-service 100 percent reliable system. The new one will be built with prime-time in mind: it will support the load required.

In addition, the new hardware (IEEE 802.11n-compliant) boasts four times the range of our current system. Many current student computers (and the majority of those that new students will bring to Knox) support this standard.

Plus, we are moving to a controller-based architecture from intelligent endpoint. What this means in simple terms is a dynamic, adaptable network, which equates to greatly increased reliability (for technical details, email me or Google it).

To optimize access point placement, a professional wireless survey of campus will be conducted prior to installing the new system. This is something that never happened during the creation of the current wireless system, and it shows.

The school will also be subsidizing USB wireless devices at a cost of no more than $25 per device per student. These will be available for students who lack wireless capabilities (which come standard on the vast majority of modern laptops, and are available for all modern desktops).

A resolution voicing student support will be presented this week at Student Senate (Thursday, 7 p.m., Round Room in CFA). Feel free to attend and voice your opinion.

Tech chair out.

Brady Myers

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