University considers wireless-Gelman only building with full coverage

While only one GW academic building offers complete wireless Internet access, more than 50 percent of college classrooms nationwide offer the service, according to a recently released report.

The Campus Computing Project’s survey, which was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month, said 51.2 percent of college classrooms nationwide have wireless access, up from 42.7 percent in 2005. The study also stated that colleges rank network and data security as the top information technology concern, according to the Chronicle.

Gelman Library is the only building on campus that is completely wireless. Selected areas and floors offer access throughout campus, including Kogan Plaza, the Media and Public Affairs Building’s third and fourth floors, the Marvin Center’s Hippodrome, the 1957 E Street third floor lounge and a few others.

Gelman’s investment in wireless technology is funded through voluntary library donations and its departmental budget, which is separate from academic and residential building finances.

Gale Etschmaier, associate university librarian for Gelman Public Services, said the main reason Gelman went completely wireless this summer is due to student feedback.

“It was a No. 1 concern of the Student Association recently. Gelman tries to respond to student needs,” Etschmaier said. “There have been some transition pains, but in general, (the results are) very positive.”

Etschmaier said statistics will soon show if wireless connectivity attracted more people to the library.

“An average of 5,000 people come in and out during the day and 10,000 during the peak periods,” Etschmaier said. “But I think looking at statistics from this September and October will be very interesting.”

While more wireless access is a possibility, there are other factors holding GW back from more GWireless hotspots, said Alexandra Kim, executive director of Information Systems and Services’ Technology Services.

“There are many scenarios that are technically possible but security, reliability, scalability and speed (or) bandwidth are some of the driving factors in terms of selecting networking technologies,” Kim wrote in an e-mail last week.

The survey results showed a decline in reports of hacking incidents, virus and spyware infestations, and stolen computers with confidential data since last year.11.3 percent of colleges reported that confidential data had been exposed, according to the Chronicle.

Kim said adding data jacks, which run about $750, is a key component in creating a wireless campus, but the jacks must be requested by the building’s users and must come from that department’s finances.

“We are in discussions to add aspects of mobility to the campus that will be dependent on building use and budgetary constraints,” she said.

Last November, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District launched completely free wireless access in Farragut Square, northeast of campus at 17th and L streets. Daniel Hurtado, a spokesman for the district, said people have reacted positively, and the park has seen an increase in visitors.

“It was launched as part of an initiative to bring more uses to public spaces,” Hurtado said of the district’s wifi, or wireless system. “Wifi is a good way to bring people to have a good use of the park.”

Few problems with the wireless connection have occurred, Hurtado said. He added that difficulties usually occur when it’s rainy or overcast, and the technology company managing the system is good about reacting quickly to disruptions.

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