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ECSU first to be fully wireless

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Elizabeth City State University has become the first institution in the University of North Carolina system to have 100 percent coverage of its campus with latest-generation wireless internet that provides the fastest connection speed available.

Suresh Murugan, who heads the university’s information technology office, reported to ECSU trustees’ Infrastructure and Technology Committee Tuesday on the completion of a $6.5 million IT infrastructure upgrade.

Murugan told trustees that the upgrade covered 38 campus buildings, 92 network switch locations, 304 new network switches and 1,150 wireless access points. The work was completed in not quite a year and a half, Murugan said, adding the typical timeframe for a project of this scope is about three years.

Murugan’s report indicated the ECSU campus now has 100 percent wireless coverage, including the outdoor areas.

The draft annual report by the university’s Division of Information Technology points out that many professors now incorporate students’ smart devices into classroom instruction.

In addition, the report states, “on the social side, students depend on the streaming video and audio for their smart television and video gaming devices in their dorms, as well as unlimited access to wireless network support in the common areas like libraries, student center, and even outdoor activity areas. All of this translates into much higher demands of the technology infrastructure.”

ECSU Chancellor Thomas Conway told the Infrastructure and Technology Committee that access to high-speed wireless is a basic expectation of today’s students. Students don’t won’t to lose their network connection in the middle of a conversation as they are walking from one building to another, he said.

Conway indicated he had tested the network himself by streaming a television show as he walked around the campus, and he found the results were excellent.

The chancellor said the quality of the wireless network at ECSU is a competitive advantage in recruiting students.

The draft annual report of the IT Division notes the importance of wireless networks to how students experience the campus.

“The student experience is measured in the availability, usability, maintainability, and sustainability of wired and wireless local area network and Internet access,” the report states. “The typical student arriving on a college campus has at least three wireless devices, and will expect to stream most of their educational resources as well as personal internet content.”

Joshua Lassiter, ECSU’s vice chancellor for business and finance, explained in a report to another committee meeting of the board of trustees Tuesday that much of the university’s $6 million 2016-17 special appropriation from the state had been used for IT infrastructure investment. Lassiter noted the results of the investment included a 3,800-percent increase in internet speed on the campus and 100 percent wireless coverage.

Murugan explained that about $4.5 million of the IT upgrade cost was paid from the special appropriation, with the remaining $2 million coming from other grants and funding sources.

Murugan said Tuesday that while ECSU is the first campus in the UNC system to provide 100 percent coverage with latest-generation wireless Internet, other campuses are at 30 percent completion and other gradual stages toward completion of similar projects.

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