Wireless Internet now up in all dorms

$700,000 initiative requires specialized software to use

· August 31, 2006, 5:00 am

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Get ready to cut the cords.

Penn has rolled out wireless access for all 11 college houses and Sansom Place in time for the school year, allowing students to finally break away from their ethernet cables.

The project cost $700,000 and was completed in mid-July, said Marilyn Spicer, associate director of computing.

Though Penn Computing and Information Services will still distribute ethernet cables to students during move-in and throughout the year, students will be able to connect to the new network - known as Air PennNet - using their PennKeys. Users must download specialized software to use it.

This will allow students to work anywhere in their dorms without having to use a cord to get online.

Connecting through Air PennNet, like most wireless networks, will probably be slightly slower than connecting via a land line.

As Mike Palladino, one of the officials in charge of rolling out the new system, explained, wired connections through an ethernet cord average 10 megabytes per second in speed.

"Wireless connections are most likely less than 10 MB since 20 [or more] people may be sharing" the 54 MB bandwidth provided by the wireless network, he explained.

Air PennNet is meant as a supplement to the current wireless system, which is installed in most university buildings, including the libraries, College Green and academic buildings.

The wireless computing initiative was announced in November 2005 by University President Amy Gutmann, partly in response to an earlier survey of undergraduates.

That survey reported that 87 percent of 659 respondents wanted the college houses to go wireless.

Students who moved in Monday, however, experienced trouble hooking up to the network.

This was due to the fact that ITAs - students who help their peers with technology issues - were slated to end training today.

Engineering junior Sammy Saber was one such person.

Saber, who is the head of Fisher-Hassenfeld College House's information desk, said he was "having problems with getting my wireless Internet to work," despite having followed the online instructions provided on the Penn Computing Web site - in part because of a lack of ITA support.

Saber did have friends who were training to be ITAs "who did get it to work," however.

Students who want to brave setting up their wireless access without an ITA's help can go to rescomp.upenn.edu, where a list of instructions is posted under the "Set up your Wireless" link.

Air PennNet comes in addition to a partnership between the city and EarthLink Inc. to extend wireless access throughout the city.

Penn's wireless network, however, is expected to be more reliable than the city's and will be more accessible to students who are indoors, University officials say.

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