An initiative to institute campus-wide wireless network access is currently underway at UB, offering students high-speed Internet access without the hassle of wires and over-crowded workstations.
As of Friday, Sept. 21, wireless access points are set up at some of the high-traffic areas on both the North and South campuses, where quickly finding an open Internet-ready computer is often difficult. The access points allow laptop users with wireless network cards to surf the Internet while within range of the access point, typically a 100-foot radius.
Access points have been installed in Bell 101, the first floor of the Capen Undergraduate Library, the third floor of the Science and Engineering Library, the second and fourth floors of the Law Library, the second and third floors of Lockwood Library, and the basement, first, and second floors of Abbot Hall on South Campus.
"I like it," said senior psychology major Dana Korman. "The prospect of not having to wait on line for a computer at the library sounds great."
While creating a wireless network will allow more students on-campus access, widespread usage may create computer security and privacy issues. Although wireless users will still need a UB IT name and password to log onto the network, remote access may allow others to monitor users' actions or gain access to their computers. In such a case, it would be very difficult for network administrators to trace the source of the intrusion.
Most users will have to purchase a wireless network card, a pricey, non-standard item on most laptops. LinkSys instant wireless network cards, for example, retail for $129.99 at CompUSA stores.
"I think it's a step in the right direction for overall Internet access," said Dave Ellison, a senior mechanical engineering major. "But only when wireless hardware becomes affordable will UB's wireless abilities be practical."
Bob Chang, a junior chemical engineering major, agrees. "I'm worried that no one will use it," said Chang. "Can people really afford this kind of access?"
University faculty members involved in the venture believe that security and cost will not be a deterrent to students considering using the wireless network.
"This is a pilot to understand what we can expect," said Rick Lesniak, director of academic services for Computing and Information Technology. "As usage grows, so will our facilities. People think wireless and they picture students sitting on benches surfing the net. That's what we hope to achieve."
Lesniak added that wireless programs at other schools have "typically been very successful."
This new type of network, 802.11b, allows users to share 11 megabytes between them, an improvement from the previous 1-megabyte standard. Users can expect download speeds similar to the residence halls' network connections.
The addition of wireless access points on campus is mentioned as a contributor to UB's ascent to number 10 on Yahoo! Internet Life's "Most Wired Colleges" list.