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Wireless LAN Installation Complete

By Eric Berry

With the recent introduction of wireless Local Area Network, MIT students can now connect to the Internet from nearly any point on campus. Following a small pilot program in the Sloan School of Management last year, the program has been expanded to include several hundred access locations.

MIT spent nearly $800,000 to install 802.11b-compliant networking, providing access in classrooms, libraries, and common areas, including Kresge Oval, the entire student center, all the libraries, and large lecture halls such as Room 26-100 and Room 10-250.

“People could have access using laptops in common areas, where people tend to gather anyway,” said Albert Willis, a consultant for MIT Information Systems. “This is especially useful because laptops are becoming increasingly popular.”

Wireless network comes to class

Many classes, such as Mechanics and Materials I in Course II (2.001), are already lending students laptops which are readily compatible with wireless LAN. Wireless LAN has proven to be highly compatible with projects that aim to make the classroom a more flexible and interactive experience, like Technology Enabled Active Learning, an interactive version of Physics II (8.02T).

Many students, however, expressed concern that wireless LAN would be more of a distraction. “I think computers in general can be distracting in the classroom, but adding wireless Internet makes it even more of a problem,” says Chris Sae-Hau ’02. “Giving people Internet access -- you can’t really regulate what they’re doing, so it probably can’t be all that productive.”

“I think it’s an amazing technology, but I’m not sure if there’s any use for it in the actual classroom,” said Aimee R. Ginley ’03. “Why do you need Internet access in your class?”

Still, some students have already found the technology useful. “I do keep it open during lecture and it has been useful to look up a formula or a fact,” said Michael F. Lin ’05. “Of course, I also get instant messages from my friends.”

Original plans scaled back

The wireless deployment team has been active for nearly seven months now, but the current plan represents a slightly scaled-down version of more ambitious coverage plans proposed by Provost Robert A. Brown. High costs were cited in the decision to scale back service. Currently, the vast majority of the access points are fully operational. Through the use of left-over funds, more access points will be added as network traffic increases in certain areas.

However, due to limited access speed, “Wireless will never be considered a replacement for wired Ethernet,” said Thomas C. Murphy, wireless team leader. “It’s not meant to move large files around.” Still, at 11 megabits/second, it provides ample speed for common Internet tasks such as e-mail and web surfing.

MIT Information Services noted that very few problems have been reported to date. The pilot program in Sloan also proved highly successful. In addition to the wireless access maintain by MIT, individuals and fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups may set up their own wireless networks to be compatible with MIT’s network. A complete list of the classrooms and libraries that offer wireless access can be found at .