Faster Internet and more of it with UB Wi-Fi initiatives

Wi-Fi initiatives on campus and downtown help bring UB and Buffalo up to speed

UBIT has finally gotten the message – the age of less-than-instantaneous Internet has passed, and it’s time for UB to catch up.

As available Internet speeds increase with the development of services like Google Fiber, and as companies continue to break broadband speed records, standards for basic Wi-Fi also continue to skyrocket.

It just isn’t acceptable anymore to wait for a webpage to load, and it’s taken years for that to emerge as a priority on campus.

So although UBIT’s announcement of its forthcoming Wi-Fi Boost initiative is of course welcome news, it’s surprising to learn this is the first initiative of its kind since the university’s introduction of Wi-Fi on campus in 2001 – 14 years ago.

In 2001, the first iPhone was still six years away, the first Harry Potter movie was in theaters, Destiny’s Child was still together and the majority of households still used dial-up to access the Internet.

The lack of an extensive update to UB’s Wi-Fi since that long-ago date is simply hard to fathom.

In fairness to UBIT, there have been smaller-scale updates to the system, but considering many students struggle to maintain a consistent Internet connection in their dorm rooms or classrooms, it’s clear those minor improvements weren’t sufficient.

Access to high-speed, reliable Internet may have once been a luxury, but now, with the increasingly dominant presence of technology in daily life, it’s more of a necessity than ever before – especially in an academic setting, where students have to use UBlearns, online databases and the library’s webpages in order to complete their schoolwork.

As more and more of UB’s academic materials and instruction move online, the university has a responsibility to ensure that students all over campus can access those materials with ease.

Overcoming this digital divide is critical not just at UB but throughout Buffalo, where public Wi-Fi is often the only form of Internet access available for individuals who can’t afford the high monthly fees to maintain their own connection to the web – or for residents in more unstable situations, who don’t even have a household, let alone a high-speed Internet connection.

It’s exciting to hear that even as UB improves its mediocre Wi-Fi, a public network for all of downtown Buffalo is under development.

Starting this summer, thanks to a pilot project organized by the city, M&T Bank and UB, there will be free access to public Wi-Fi throughout downtown, with plans already in the works to expand the network.

The project cost M&T only $650,000, as it uses UB’s existing fiber-optic cable and the city’s infrastructure, in a smart use of existing resources.

For just over a half million dollars, residents of Buffalo will soon enjoy free use of the Internet in an important equalization of information access.

With their Internet initiatives, both UB and the city of Buffalo are catching up and surpassing the expectations of the public, with practical improvements that will have immediate and appreciated results.