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Wireless-Networking Services Expanding at Penn College

This fall at Pennsylvania College of Technology, students can sip their favorite beverage in a campus coffee shop, relax in a game room or soak up sun while staying connected to the College’s computer network and navigating the Internet.

With wireless-networking services already in place at four locations around the main campus, students no longer have to be anchored to desktop computers in their residences or College computer labs to stay connected.

Information Technology Services at Penn College unveiled the expanded wireless-networking effort at the beginning of the fall semester. The College Library has been using a wireless network for the past year, enabling ITS and library staff to evaluate the capabilities of the new technology. The success of the library system spawned the expanded role for wireless networking around Penn College.

To avail themselves of the service, students as well as faculty and staff need only a laptop computer or personal digital assistant with an 802.11b (or WiFi) wireless Ethernet adapter.

“The technology uses radio waves to connect your computer to the College network without any cabling, the same way a radio picks up a radio station’s signal,” said James E. Cunningham, the College’s chief technology officer. “The wireless adapter in the laptop picks up a network signal from a wireless access point.”

In addition to the existing zone at the College Library, wireless zones now are available at the Bush Campus Center (encompassing the CoffeeHouse, Bistro and Game Room), the Susquehanna Room dining hall, and the International Cafe in the Klump Academic Center. Another wireless zone in a courtyard adjacent to the Hager Lifelong Education Center and Bardo Gymnasium will be established soon.

“You must be within roughly 150 feet of a wireless access point basically an antenna that is connected to the campus network via a network cable,” Cunningham explained. “The antenna beams a network signal in a circle all around it.”

The College Library has been providing “loaner” laptops to students for several years, Cunningham said. He expects wireless-networking services will expand again if they prove popular with students, faculty and staff.

“Ultimately, we expect to cover most interior gathering areas, conference rooms and popular exterior areas, like the front steps of the Academic Center and the outside of the cafeteria entrance to the Lifelong Education Center and the Learning Resources Center,” Cunningham said.

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