Wireless Internet access expands across campus

Meranda Watling

FlashZone, Kent State’s wireless Internet program, is expanding its coverage on campus.

FlashZone, which began in Fall 2003 as a pilot program, recently added coverage to the commuter lounge in White Hall, the Academic Success Center in the Michael Schwartz Building and the School of Speech Pathology and Audiology in the Music and Speech Building, among others.

The success of the pilot phase has led to the creation of a formal process for departments to apply for wireless access. Applications for new wireless locations are online at http://newmedia.kent.edu/wireless/.

Cathy Mahrle, senior LAN WAN integrator for Network Services, said it has received eight applications from the site so far.

“Some people really, really want it,” she said. “Others not so much, and that’s OK. We can’t get to everyone at once.”

The department doesn’t have the money or resources to make the “ungodly number of campus buildings” wireless at once, Mahrle said. Applications are reviewed in the order they are received. A response is sent within 60 days because Information Services must often ask more questions before deciding whether the applications are approved.

The department has recently run into issues with some of the older campus buildings, which may have asbestos, Mahrle said. Wiring those buildings would require specialists to come in because of the health hazard of going through the walls.

Although the Web application says, “Current funding levels should enable us to deploy 150 Access Points this fiscal year,” there is not an unlimited budget for the project.

“Money is always a concern,” said Paul Albert, director of Information Services. “We have money set aside to implement wireless, but obviously if everybody on campus sent in an application and said, ‘We want it,’ there certainly wouldn’t be enough to do it all this year. I believe we have enough money to complete the applications we’ll receive this year.”

Security is another area of concern, Albert said.

“I think wireless is probably — as implemented here — fairly secure,” Albert said.

But security is something the department keeps in mind as it continues to expand. When the pilot program began, Windows XP Home Edition and some handheld PDAs couldn’t support the encryption necessary to ensure a secure network. The department is working on a new protocol to allow those users access and is “very close” to allowing XP Home, Mahrle said.

“We can’t jeopardize the campus network,” Mahrle said, “even though we want to expand.”

The ultimate goal, she said, would be to have not only the entire campus wireless but also the seven regional campuses. But it won’t happen overnight.

“To get everything, including the green space, covered — it’s probably a three-year, maybe three-to-five-year, plan.”

Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].