By Danny Huizinga
Ask any student (especially a freshman living in the residence halls) what they think about Airbear, Baylor’s wireless network. Chances are, the comments you hear will be less than stellar – the connection is spotty, the speed is slow and you never know which areas will have a connection.
A promising new bill passed by Student Senate by an unanimous vote Thursday took an important step to improve the wireless Internet access around campus. The “Extended Wi-Fi” bill recommended that the university find ways to improve Internet access in outdoor common areas where there is currently little or no signal.
This could “increase the overall amount of potential research and study locations on campus,” according to the bill.
Sophomore senator James Porter, who is the chair of the Campus Improvements and Affairs Committee, introduced the bill – along with Lindsey Bacque, a sophomore senator who chairs the Public Relations Committee
“This bill will help improve Wi-Fi for all students around campus, ensuring that their experience at Baylor is more productive, efficient and rewarding,” Porter said.
He’s right. Faster Internet can have a substantial impact on productivity, according to a 2011 study by Ericsson, a technology company and the Chalmers University of Technology.
Porter said though this bill focuses on improving Wi-Fi in outdoor areas, it is a great first step toward encouraging better Wi-Fi access in all areas of campus, something that is sorely needed. Just take a look at the “coverage maps” on the Baylor Information and Technology Services website (which, ironically, are supposed to enlarge when you click on them but currently don’t work) and you’ll see large splotches of red.
These “poor/no signal” areas are mostly concentrated in residence halls, though several buildings (such as Waco Hall) have seemingly random red classrooms or hallways. Technically, residence halls are supposed to have Wi-Fi access, but many freshmen still must use an Ethernet cable because their connection is so poor.
No doubt there are many important technology expenses on our campus – but certainly, the one that allows you to submit your paper, email your professor or check your grades while you walk to class without losing your connection should take a higher priority.
Good thing Student Senate saw it that way too.
Danny Huizinga is a senior Baylor Business Fellows from Lombard, Ill. He is a guest columnist for the Lariat.