Aug 192007
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Nearly two months after installation of a wireless Internet blanket covering Old Town, Fort Collins city officials are studying the possibility of extending it south from downtown to include parts of the CSU campus by spring 2008.

The first stage was put in place in parts of Old Town in July.

The program is currently in preliminary stages while technicians work out all the kinks with transponders and other technology, said CEO Bill Ward of Front Range Internet, the company running the project.

The city is negotiating with local Internet providers and CSU’s Academic Computer Networking Services (ACNS) to implement the second stage of the pilot program, said Tom Vosburg, Fort Collins’ chief information officer.

The current service extends east from Mason Street to Peterson Street, and south from Maple Street to Olive Street.

A possible extension would include the area between College Avenue and Shields Street, and from LaPorte Avenue, down to campus.

Planners aren’t sure how much of campus would be covered if the plan is adopted.

Similar programs at other schools have been received with praise.

The University of Georgia in Athens offers a similar wireless network.

“The students certainly indicate that it has been a positive experience for them,” said Bert DeSimone, an officer with UGA Enterprise Information Technology Services.

A large portion of student fees at UGA go toward expanding the wireless programs on campus. This is in compliance with student voting results, DeSimone said.

At CSU, student fees would not go toward the service here because it would be an extension of the existing wireless Internet on campus, said Patrick Burns, director of ACNS.

Talk is also circulating about utilizing a new wireless technology called WiMAX, which has a more efficient frequency than Wi-Fi.

CSU currently has 500 points of wireless Internet access, including all residence halls, major buildings and the plaza.

But ACNS wants to make the service seamless, while establishing balance with other servers if possible.

“We just have to find a way for different servers to play nicely together,” Burns said.

The public can use the Wi-Fi in Old Town free of charge for a half-hour. Beyond that, monthly subscriptions are available starting at $29.99.

Shorter subscriptions are available, costing from $3.96 per hour to $7.95 per day.

But some business owners in Old Town said the service isn’t practical because most shops and eateries in the area already feature their own Wi-Fi connections.

“It gives an option of whether they want to get on theirs (FRII’s service) and pay, or come in here and use (wireless Internet) for free,” said Mike Hoffman, owner of Starry Night Coffee Company.

Charly Clifford, owner of Mugs Coffee Lounge in South Old Town, said that most people can’t get a good signal outside of his establishment.

Some CSU students are in favor of extending wireless network.

“It’d be nice to not have to go to a specific location and be able to work outside,” said first-year grad student Julian Metz.

Christa Palmer, another first-year grad student said, “If it’s free, then yeah, why not? It would come in my apartment.”

The city is expected to make a decision on the extended network by spring of 2008.

Staff writer Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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