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Student housing "wired" at last

March 25, 2003

After several delays, all Austin Peay housing units now are wired for Internet access, thanks to a cooperative effort between the physical plant, housing, the Office of Information Technology and Telephone Services.

The multiphase project, originally scheduled for completion in Fall 2002, was stalled by one contract protest and several on-campus construction projects.
March 25, 2003

After several delays, all Austin Peay housing units now are wired for Internet access, thanks to a cooperative effort between the physical plant, housing, the Office of Information Technology and Telephone Services.

The multiphase project, originally scheduled for completion in Fall 2002, was stalled by one contract protest and several on-campus construction projects.

"Two new construction projects startedone right on top of the fiber optic path that had been installed," says Charles Wall, director of the Office of Information Technology. "The contractors on the project had to dig it up."

Fiber optic cable is the lifeblood of Internet technology, explains Jim Spriggle, manager of telecommunications, and Austin Peay's housing required a lot of it. "Three and a half miles, some 18,000 feet. And each cable can have eight to 24 strands of fiber."

Last spring, trenches were dug, pipes were laid and fiber optic cables were installed. Over the summer, work began on the installation of conduitskinny pipes that cover and protect cablesfrom central "communication closets" in each building to the various rooms.

The process of pulling fiber optic and copper cable into the conduits was put on hold, as the contract was protested and eventually re-awarded. "That took about four months," Wall says.

But when all was said and done, roughly 1,100 Internet portals were installed. All students had to do was plug in their computers.

So far, 465 students are connected, a number Spriggle says was "less than expected."

"We thought it would be higher, about 70 percent. We're seeing about 40 percent."

Why the discrepancy? "Some use AOL. Some are happy with their Charter connection. And not all student computers are capable of Internet connections," he says.

Funding for the project, which ended up costing well over a million dollars with the addition of new housing, came from a bond authority, according to Wall, and will be repaid directly from housing. "Some portion of the rent will go to pay off the bond issue," he says.

Why go to through the expense and headaches of offering Internet-connected dorms? Recruitment, says Spriggle. "Universities nationwide have been networking dorms for the past few years.”

"Students and parents inevitably ask 'What kind of Internet access do you have?' "It's a factor in their enrollment decision."

Internet access is an important part of the University's commitment to student service as well, he adds.