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Dorms Get Wireless As Service Upgrades Prove Too Expensive

By Marie Y. Thibault

After over two years of delays, the Housing Office has scrapped planned upgrades of wire networks in some dormitories, instead choosing the cheaper option of providing wireless internet.

In addition to the lower cost of installing wireless, “providing network services throughout the entire campus is very important for teaching at MIT,” said Jerrold M. Grochow, Vice President for Information Services and Technology.

All dormitories will have wireless internet service by Sept. 30, said Theresa M. Regan, director of IS&T’s Operations & Infrastructure Services, which is managing the upgrades. Faster wire networks are also being installed in several fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, Grochow said.

Dorm wire upgrades canceled

Housing plans no more upgrades for dormitory wire networks, said Karen A. Nilsson, associate dean and director of housing. The East Campus and Bexley upgrades were finished in Jan. 2004; similar upgrades to New House and Next House were initially delayed in Sept. 2003, then later cancelled.

Nilsson said that the East Campus and Bexley Hall upgrades cost over a million dollars each. “We don’t have funds” to install wire networks, she said. The cost of wireless networks and network upgrades is not yet available, Regan said.

Once installation is completed at McCormick Hall, MacGregor House, and Edgerton House, all dormitories will have wireless service.

About 40 percent of campus has wiring that allows networks to run at 10 megabits per second (Mbps), with other areas handling 100 Mbps, Grochow said. The wireless connections run between 11 and 54 Mbps, while the wired networks run at 10 or 100 Mbps across most of campus, and at 1,000 Mbps (gigabit ethernet) in the Stata Center and Building 46 (the new Brain and Cognitive Sciences Building), he said. The capacity of wireless networks is distributed over all users for a particular switch, so the effective speed for a user depends on other’s usage, while a wire connection is usually a dedicated capacity for that connection.

All common spaces in the Institute, excluding dormitories,were equipped with wireless last year, and the campus will be completely wireless enabled by 2006, Grochow said.

FSILG networks to be upgraded

IS&T has contracted with Verizon to improve wired networks in FSILGs, said Robert V. Ferrara, director of FSILG Alumni Relations.

After the upgrades, 10 Mbps will be shared within each house, compared with 1.5 Mbps before the upgrades. Verizon is scheduled to finish the upgrades by the end of October, Ferrara said. Only one upgrade, at Pika, has been completed so far.

FSILGs on campus are already at the 10 Mbps speed, as are the Women’s Independent Living Group and Alpha Delta Phi, which are close to campus.

The FSILG upgrades are being paid for by IS&T. However, expenses for any internal wiring within the houses will be covered by FSILGs.
The Independent Residence Development Fund, an MIT-run fund channeling donations for living groups, may provide grants for network costs facing FSILGs, Ferrara said.