By Olivia Montes
Throughout the remainder of the 2021-22 academic year, Washington College will undergo a process to update Wi-Fi access points across campus.
According to Executive Director for the Office of Information Technology Regina Elliot, antiquated wireless access points — which are “installed…enabled and controlled through [the College’s] wireless controllers” and allow for several Wi-Fi devices to connect to a larger network system — will be replaced throughout campus.
As per OTI’s capital budget request from the 2020-21 academic year, Elliot said that, while there are “no problems with the current system,” upgrading the Wi-Fi access point system was necessary in helping students be able to connect for any on-campus activity or opportunity.
“Improving our student’s campus experience is our top priority, so we have been focusing on the dorms and academic buildings this year,” Elliot said. “Last year, we requested additional funding to upgrade the wireless access points in the student dorms and a few other buildings where there were older access points so that we could improve the student experience, [as] we understand how critical wireless technology is for students.”
According to President of the College Dr. Mike Sosulski, as more students, faculty, and staff members connect more devices to the wireless network, consistently upgrading the nexus is important in ensuring that all are able to go online without issue.
“When you invest in your Wi-Fi network and new equipment, it used to be that you would hope that it would last…10 years, if you were lucky,” Dr. Sosulski said. “The problem is that students are bringing more devices that they want to connect to the internet than they ever have before — about five different wireless devices that they’d like to use — [and] that’s a lot in our network that wasn’t designed for that. So, investing on a regular basis in replacement and renewal of IT equipment is just what you have to do.”
Many students, staff, and faculty members alike have expressed similar thoughts regarding the urgency of this process.
According to Electronic Resources Librarian Cori Lynn Arnold, while she has had a fairly good experience working with the Wi-Fi system in the Clifton Miller Library, she said that every few months, the connection would drop, and she would be unable to get back online for several minutes prior to contacting the HelpDesk.
“I [also] know from talking to students that the Wi-Fi in the dorm rooms are not nearly as strong or reliable,” Arnold said. “I’ve told a few students that they might get better signal — but not necessarily [the output] — by opening their dorm room doors, as Wi-Fi acts like sound waves, so it’s harder to get through doors and walls.”
According to Elliot, based on the funding OIT receives annually, updating these access points will be an “ongoing process,” allowing for several aspects of the on-campus infrastructure to continue to evolve with each academic year.
“With technology, you need to think in terms of life cycle just as you would with a cell phone or laptop,” Elliot said. “In time, the technology becomes antiquated and [then] must be replaced to function optimally.”
“Upgrading the wireless infrastructure will be an ongoing process: we request capital funding each year to either replace antiquated access points [or] add additional access points or network drops to expand our wireless coverage throughout campus,” she said.
Alongside these goals, many WC community members express hope that constant updates will continue to happen throughout and beyond the 2021-22 year.
“I believe that good, reliable Wi-Fi is essential for students, staff, and faculty here at WC,” Arnold said. “Many modern student laptops don’t even have the native capabilities for plugging into the network directly. Like many resources that we now depend on such as water and electricity, Wi-Fi should feel seamless and not require effort or worry that it might fail on the part of the user.”
Photo by Olivia Dorsey
Featured Photo Caption: For the rest of the 2021-22 academic year, the Washington College campus will be updating current Wi-Fi access points within their wireless network system.