Towson U. campus goes wireless

February 02, 2005|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Towson University officials used to brag about the high-speed Internet connections on campus. Now, they're extolling the virtues of not having to plug in.

Being wired was good, they say. Being wireless is better.

Today, the university will make a $3.2 million wireless network available to students and faculty, who can check e-mail, conduct online research and download course work without having to plug into a telephone line or cable port, Towson officials said.

To Jay Lakhani, who like other students makes last-minute changes in his work on his laptop and often e-mails his papers to professors, the new network is "an excellent tool."

"I won't have to carry around cables anymore and look for a port," said Lakhani, a computer science graduate student.

At a ceremony this afternoon, Robert L. Caret, president of Towson University, is scheduled to cut a computer cord to mark the availability of the wireless network on campus.

Other nearby universities and colleges - including Loyola and Goucher colleges and University of Maryland, Baltimore County - also offer wireless connections on their campuses. But, Towson officials say the university becomes the largest Baltimore-area campus with wireless capability inside and outside all of its academic buildings.

The wireless network at Towson uses radio frequencies and includes nearly 400 Internet access points in 28 administrative and academic buildings, said David F. Harnage, senior vice president and chief financial officer at the university.

Developed and installed with Cisco Systems Inc., the network will allow computer users anywhere on the 328-acre campus to use the Internet from 300 feet away from any of the access points with connections of up to 54 megabytes per second, he said.

"We believe it's important that our students and faculty have access to our network anywhere, anytime," Harnage said.

Towson University, which has 14,311 undergraduates and 3,356 graduate students, has been offering some wireless connections in places such as the student lounge in the student union building, officials said.

In 1997, the university became the first in Maryland to offer high-speed Internet connections. As part of a $2.2 million deal with Comcast, the high-speed connections were offered in Towson's 1,700 dormitory rooms. Comcast will continue to provide the high-speed Internet connections in Towson's residence halls, officials said.

But students and faculty members say the wireless network will be even more convenient, as laptops and personal digital assistants become increasingly popular on campus.

Although it will be easier for students to surf the Internet during lectures, James C. Roberts, chairman of the political science department, says he believes the wireless network will be a valuable classroom tool more often than a distraction.

In a course he teaches on international economic development, Roberts said students often have to rely on information he provides about various countries during classroom discussions. Being able to log on to the Internet during class, he said, will allow students to research the cultures of the countries themselves.

Ed Del Sordo, a senior at Towson majoring in computer science, said he's looking forward to using the wireless network because he'll be able to receive instant messages when he's not logged on to the Internet in his apartment.

"It's going to be great," Del Sordo said. "I won't be stuck doing work in my room. I can hang out outside."

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