IT launches new network, expands Wi-Fi across campus


Erin Brown

Mark Las, director of infrastructure services in the Information Technology Department, said the department doubled the number of access points in 22 campus buildings to improve internet connection.

By Campus Editor

As of this semester, students, faculty and staff no longer have to login each time they connect to internet on campus as part of multi-million dollar network improvements launched by the Information Technology Department.

The IT Department launched a new wireless network Sept. 2, including four networks: ones for faculty and staff, students, guests, and special events, according to a Sept. 1 email sent by the infrastructure team to faculty and staff. 

The IT Department also increased the number of access points—devices with antennas that allow laptops and cellphones to connect to wireless network—from 250 to more than 600. This equipment will provide a faster network with better coverage for the campus community, according to the email. 

“We’ve modernized the equipment [for the college],” said Mark Las, the department’s director of infrastructure services.

In a Sept. 22 email sent to The Chronicle, college spokeswoman Cara Birch said the network upgrade cost $5.5 million. 

Birch later confirmed the expenditure remained within its allocated budget. 

As reported Nov. 16, 2015,  by The Chronicle, Byron Nash, associate vice president of the department’s Technology Services, discussed in a Nov. 13, 2015, Faculty Senate meeting modernizing the college’s 7–15 years–behind network. 

In the past, if the internet in one building went down, others would be affected, Las said. But, the new system uses a backup—if one goes down, others continue to operate.

“The secondary [network keeps it] functioning,” Las said.

Nash said Derrick D’Gama, the late former director of network infrastructure, began the upgrade process more than a year ago. 

The project—completed ahead of schedule—used four vendors, including Juniper, Lightower Fiber Networks, Aruba and Netrix, which provided the wire switches, fiber,  wireless services and network design and installation respectively, according to Nash.

Nash encouraged vendors to finish early after receiving complaints from faculty, staff and students regarding speed and design. 

“My main goal was to make this new network available for students when they returned [for the Fall 2016 Semester],” Nash said. 

Sophomore photography major Audrey Reinhardt said she did not have issues with the previous campus network. 

“It was always working, and it was pretty fast,” Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt said she had more issues connecting to the new network during the first few weeks of school, but it became quicker. 

Junior cinema art + science major Gabriel Barrios-Loomis said he likes that he now only has to log in once a semester to connect to the network.

“The fact that it does remember [my devices]makes it a lot more accessible and makes it a welcome change,” Barrios-Loomis said. 

Barrios-Loomis had similar trouble connecting to Wi-Fi at the beginning of the semester but no longer does. He added that, in the past, he would notice periods in the middle of the day when the connection was weaker. 

Las said the revamp was necessary for students, faculty and staff because Columbia reached a point where the network needed a replacement.

“We recognize [that] we have to have the best technology,” Las said. “Columbia needs to be running as best as it can. Our responsibility [is] to deliver that.”