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Published: Monday, 5/7/2007

Wireless campuses becoming common

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Katie Stump, a freshman from Monroe, uses wireless Internet in the lounge of Monroe County Community College. The entire Monroe campus is accessible from wireless computers. Katie Stump, a freshman from Monroe, uses wireless Internet in the lounge of Monroe County Community College. The entire Monroe campus is accessible from wireless computers.
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Today's college students expect state-of-the art technology from their schools.

Wireless Internet service on campus, once a perk, is now almost a requirement. And colleges and universities in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are upgrading their systems to meet the demand.

Most recently, Monroe County Community College created a wireless campus.

"The push was to get up with the times," President David Nixon said. "Many of the students were born after 1980 and the only thing they've known is computers and video games.

"It's very natural for the them to expect it."

Another southeast Michigan school, Siena Heights University in Adrian, boasts it is one of the first colleges in Michigan to go wireless when it did so in the summer of 2000.

"Now you don't even expect them to come to campus without something that already has wireless," said Bob Metz, director of computer services and systems.

And in January, Adrian College expanded its Wi-Fi from only the student center and the dining hall to nearly the entire campus.

In northwest Ohio, Defiance College, Lourdes College, Stautzenberger College, Terra Community College, and the University of Findlay have wireless campuses for their increasing number of students with mobile technology.

"So many of our students, I'd say that no exaggeration, over 90 percent of the residential students, bring laptops with them," said Scott Walthour, University of Findlay's information technology officer.

Stautzenberger College is not only wireless in its two buildings near the Southwyck mall, but also is a certified wireless network professional academy that trains students in its information technology program for a career in wireless networking. The college is moving to a new building in Arrowhead Park in Maumee that is already set up for wireless, said Karen Fitzgerald, admissions and marketing director.

Almost all colleges and universities have at least some wireless areas of campus and most are working toward campuswide Wi-Fi.

At the University of Toledo, the main campus has wireless capabilities in about 23 percent of the buildings and the health sciences campus, the former Medical University of Ohio, has been 100 percent wireless for about six years, Chief Information Officer Joe Sawasky said.

"Our 21st-century students absolutely demand wireless," he said. "It's not a luxury for them, it's a necessity for them."

Owens Community College's Perrysburg Township campus is about 60 percent wireless and the Findlay Campus is 100 percent wireless.

Northwest State Community College in Archbold has about a dozen wireless access points that provide "hot spot" coverage, but border-to-border wireless should be in place by this fall.

Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, and Hillsdale College in Hillsdale have Wi-Fi in academic buildings and high-traffic student areas, but are planning to expand the coverage to include all the residence halls.

"Students want to be more mobile," said Patrick Chartrand, network/systems manager at Hillsdale. "They don't want to be tethered by a cable. They want to sit on their bed with their laptop."

Heidelberg College in Tiffin is creating wireless areas of campus upon request from faculty members and students.

"We'll just continue to expand as we are and at some point we'll have all the buildings done," said Kurt Huenemann, associate vice president for information resources.

But going wireless can open the door for security risks.

On unsecured wireless networks, it is possible for someone to use a "sniffer" program to seek out activity on the bandwidth and gain access to personal information.

Because the technology is still relatively new and there are these security risks, Bowling Green State University is taking a tempered approach to the new technology.

Like Heidelberg, officials are only installing wireless by request with no immediate plans to go campuswide, said Toby Singer, executive director of information technology services.

"It's security. We have concerns about that," he said. "Students do a lot of things that can hurt themselves."

Terra Community College learned firsthand about the dangers an open wireless network can bring to a school.

Warner Bros. Studios officials monitoring peer-to-peer file sharing tracked a user on the college's network sharing the movie Poseidon.

The student responsible wasn't pinpointed, but the problem led the university to completely shut down its wireless service for about six months, said Tim Kincaid, director of information technology.

In January, 2006, the wireless network was brought back up using a device from the company Bluesocket that secures the network by having the college specifically register each machine before it can access the network.

"Now with this Bluesocket, we have closed it down so [the students] stay out of trouble and keep us out of trouble," Mr. Kincaid said.

Some area colleges still use an open network where anyone with a laptop computer can sit on campus and surf the net, but most have implemented security measures such as requiring students and faculty to log on with a user name and password.

"That's the name of the game these days - keeping the security level while maintaining the ease of use," Defiance College Database Administrator Jeff Hummel said.

Rhodes State College and Mercy College of Northwest Ohio have limited wireless networks.

Rhodes has one building with permanent wireless capabilities and mobile carts with a wireless access point and laptop computers. And Mercy College has wireless capabilities for its faculty and staff, but it hasn't been extended to students.

"Ideally we'd like to have all-over wireless. If you want true coverage, it takes a lot of planning," said Diane Moots, director of information systems at Rhodes. "It's a constant learning curve for us in the technology world."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com or

419-724-6134.



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