Wireless Web access set to expand over spring break




Soon, students will be able to access wireless Internet via a number of new locations around campus, including College Green.

The expansion of the wireless services of PennNet -- the University Internet service -- is planned for installation over spring break and has a two-fold purpose: to standardize traditional wireless access on campus and create new wireless access points.

"You used to have to sign up for each wireless service area," said Reni Roberts, an information technology project leader who works for Penn's Information Systems and Computing Office.

"We're opening up the campus so that people can use wireless wherever."

The new service is free. The only requirements are possession of a PennKey and a wireless card. The service will be available to all current Penn students who have the requisite technology.

"Most new laptops today come with a wireless card already and will recognize that wireless is available," Roberts said.

The former wireless system on campus consisted of scattered pockets of accessibility that were only available to certain groups of students, and often required registration with the wireless provider.

For instance, to access the wireless network in the Biomedical Library, students originally had to register to gain access, but will no longer have to with the new system.

"The goal is simple and seamless connectivity from one spot to another," Roberts said.

Currently, wireless access is available in Wynn Commons, Houston Hall, the Graduate Student Center, the area near the Penn Bookstore on 36th Street and three dormitories -- Hill, Harnwell and Hamilton college houses. Also, Van Pelt Library has recently been converted, and its study lounges are now equipped with wireless access points.

After spring break, this list will expand to College Green and possibly the second floor of the bookstore.

Most importantly, "You will be able to log in at any of these places with the same key you use for everything else," Roberts added.

Still, there are a few downfalls. "Right now, it is slower than wired connecting," Roberts said. "Some people expect the opposite, and they get frustrated."

She advocates using the system for activities such as research and e-mail but not for heavier tasks like downloading large files.

Unlike many other wireless access services, PennNet requires user authentication. This was designed "in order to provide the strongest assurance of the most secure service possible," Roberts said.

Students will inevitably experience problems with the new system, Roberts said, but she expects the transition to go smoothly.

"Most problems people have are usually standard," she said.

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