AirUC well on its way

Fanny packs. Celine Dion. Wires.

According to the University of Calgary, these are three things not needed on campus and luckily, building by building, the U of C is getting closer to ensuring at least one of them is gone.

Some areas on campus had their own wireless networks three or four years ago, such as the Institute of Computer Technology, Haskayne and residence. AirUC is a network aiming to cover the entire campus by September 2006. Last year, administration allocated $1 million towards the project, with Information Technologies on the job.

“We were given vague directions to cover all student spaces [for phase one],” said IT Associate Director Tom Seto. “We determined this to be labs, classes, study areas, lounges and congregation areas.”

IT did a quick study to identify five major student spaces on campus. With this information, they tried to implement a plan to get the wireless network in place.

There are two phases to implement the network on campus. The first, completed by Fall 2005, consisted of placing access points around the university, focusing on the main student areas. At this point, 60 per cent of the campus is covered.

“In the first week we weren’t ready for the number of people who used the network,” said Seto. “However, the system is very flexible and we were able to expand it through software.”

During phase two, the focus will be on expanding coverage and increasing bandwidth in areas of high use, allowing more people to access the network in these areas. Smaller networks will also be converted into the AirUC network, creating more access points. Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Paige Forsyth applauded administration’s efforts to make campus wireless.

“Two years ago, the SU was going to make MacEwan Hall wireless,” she said. “We were in support of a wireless campus. I think it’s a good idea administration keeps adding [tools for students]. They want to enhance the experience on campus.”

U of C VP External Relations Roman Cooney stressed the importance of focusing on initiatives to better the student experience.

“Two years ago, the money given [to the SU and Graduate Students’ Association] was $1 million,” said Cooney. “This rose to $1.6 million last year. In total, the money allocated towards students is around $8.6 million.”

Cooney stressed the importance of these numbers, adding it is a signal the U of C is serious about focusing on students.

With increased internet access, the number of laptops in class is also growing. Seeing students playing games or reading emails during lectures has become a common sight.

“I can see how some profs may be reluctant about having laptops in class,” said Faculty Association President Anton Colijn.

Dealing with laptops in class is relatively new for some profs. Colijn said there may be a way for professors to implement tools with laptops and wireless internet in class, but was concerned about privacy.

“Wireless internet leaves users open to invasion of privacy,” he said. “There is protection, but some people don’t know about it. This means people should know about how to protect themselves.”

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