Campus aims to become fully wireless by 2017

The green areas indicate areas with wireless already. (Photos courtesy of Information Technology)

When Chief Information Officer Jerome Waldron first came to campus in May, the task at the top of his to-do list was to work on the College’s wireless network.

Suggestions from students and staff alike resulted in making improved Internet access a priority.

After attempts at jump-starting work on the wireless network several times over the past few years, the issue is finally being addressed.

Waldron said, “What I think finally hit home is that they were hearing from new students and applicants. One of the first questions they ask is, ‘Does your campus have wireless?’ A lot of schools do and TCNJ does as well, but there were some areas where it didn’t for a lot of different reasons. So we’ve really focused in on that.”

There is a five-year plan to add wireless access points at locations all around campus, though according to Waldron, a majority of the plan will be completed in three years.

“The goal in these three years is really to hit the high-value targets. The high-value targets are residence halls and academic buildings,” he said. Buildings that are currently not in heavy use and have uncertain futures are not at the top of the priority list.

These include locations like Roscoe West and Holman Hall.

A rise in smart phone, laptop and tablet usage makes Waldron aware that students and faculty are seeking ways to easily access their devices.

Almost every building on campus has at least some amount of wireless, Waldron said. Over the summer access points were added to Norsworthy and New Residence Halls.
Information Technology asked Residential Education and Housing to rank which dormitories have the highest priority, regarding the need for Internet access.

Due to renovation plans, some buildings rank higher than others. For example, Ely, Allen and Brewster Halls are slated to get wireless during fall break, but Travers and Wolfe Halls will not likely be given full wireless access until 2014 or 2015. This is because when buildings have scheduled renovations, the school sometimes waits until then to add wireless Internet.

Another goal of IT’s wireless improvements is to make students’ ability to log into the network quicker and simpler.

Speaking of authentication or network access, Waldron said, “We’ve made some tweaks to that this semester. One of the things I’ve heard from students is that they complained about getting kicked off the network.”

Up until this year, the College had three wireless networks, which have since been combined into one. The school plans to continue growing that one network and make its usage more comfortable for students.

“Our goal, for the short-term, is to have you authenticate once a day,” he explained. “In the longer term, what we’d like to have you do is authenticate once a semester.”

Though sometimes seemingly a hassle, Waldron pointed out the necessity of authentication when logging into the network.

“Authentication is more important than people think,” he said. “When you’re in a residence hall or a library and get up and walk away, we want to make sure you’re the one using the device. If it’s stolen or someone walks up and uses it, that’s where authentication and security come into play.”

“We’re certainly not watching what people are doing on the network every minute,” Waldron added.

Other future focuses include improving cell phone service on campus and developing a mobile plan. While the projects take time, Waldron encourages students to offer insight and suggestions.

“I would definitely love feedback as we go along,” he said. “The goal is to make (wireless Internet) comfortable, quick, everywhere.”

“I’m excited to be here,” Waldron continued. He believes it’s important when students voice concerns “to make sure that the students are aware that we hear it, we know it and we’re on it. That’s really what we’re all about — trying to get things where they need to be technologically.”