If you’re used to lounging on your bed at home while surfing the Internet with a wireless connection, you may find yourself frustrated at GW, where wireless access is confined to specific hot spots on campus. The University currently prohibits students from setting up wireless access points for personal use, but legal alternatives exist to expand your Internet mobility.
Students can achieve wireless connectivity in residence halls without violating GW’s policy through point-to-point wireless systems. The Nyko Wireless Net Extender uses a two-point system – like walkie-talkies or a baby monitor – to establish a safe and wire-free Internet connection.
Net Extender can be purchased at most electronic retailers for $79.99 and works with what are basically two antennas. The first plugs into the source of your Internet connection, and the second plugs into your laptop. From there, it works as a point-to-point wireless system, allowing you to establish a secure and reliable Internet connection from up to 100 feet away. It is both PC and Mac compatible and does not require software, driver installation or an existing wireless card.
Wireless Internet access is available through the University, but only in select hot spots around campus. All you need is a wireless card, which is built into most laptops, and the GWireless client software – available for download from the GW Help Desk. Students can then carry their laptop to locations in any of GW’s libraries, the Hall of Government, the Hippodrome, Kogan Plaza, Tompkins Hall and various sites at the Mount Vernon Campus.
The University allows Net Extender because it wirelessly bridges your Internet connection rather than setting up an access point through which other students could potentially connect. Other point-to-point wireless bridges are available, including the Linksys WET11, but few are as affordable or as easy to set up at the Net Extender.
Net Extender also works with video game systems like Xbox or PlayStation 2 to play online games. Instead of running an Ethernet cable across your dorm room or apartment to your video game console, you can use the Net Extender to wirelessly connect your system to the Internet for online gaming.
GW residence halls and J Street are excluded from the list of GWireless hot spots, although the University has been considering connecting J Street.
According to David Swartz, GW’s Chief Information Officer, the University is not yet able to offer its own brand of wireless Internet access at J Street because of congestion concerns.
Many Starbucks chains throughout the country participate in a deal with T-Mobile, for which customers who pay a monthly service fee based on Net usage can have wireless access in the popular coffee shop. But the J Street Starbucks location does not participate in the program.
The University will be on the lookout for students with illegal wireless connectivity to protect the GW network from hackers. But through the University and outside sources, enough legal alternatives exist to allow you to tote your laptop and Instant Messenger to most spots on campus.