The University of Montana finished installing wireless Internet in every residence hall on campus over winter break.
UM has worked to provide Wi-Fi to its residence halls for the past several years. The Residence Life and Information Technology offices set aside $150,000 to finish the project over winter break.
Matt Riley, chief information officer, said Turner Hall's Wi-Fi was turned on Jan. 21, making it the last dorm to get wireless Internet access.
“We put more emphasis on it and beefed up that project,” he said.
Riley said the completion of the project was due to the joint efforts of all the IT-related departments on campus. He said although IT projects usually don’t stay on schedule, this one went very smoothly and was completed on time.
“When we get together on something, we can do much more than either of us could do on our own,” Riley said.
Funding was the main obstacle for the project, Riley said. There was a question of whether the money should come from the University or come from student fees.
“We just needed to overcome that," Riley said. "Stop focusing on the money and actually focus on solving the problem."
Tali Katz, a junior at UM, lives in Turner Hall and was surprised to come back from winter break to stable Wi-Fi in her room.
“It’s a lot more convenient and it’s nice to not have to worry whether it’s going to drop out,” Katz said.
Before the Wi-Fi was installed, she had to choose whether to watch TV or be on the computer, because both needed the Ethernet cable. Now she can use both at the same time.
Katz said it is also helpful for her friends that have iPads and other devices that cannot connect to an ethernet cable.
“It makes it accessible for everyone,” she said.
UM plans to cover the entire campus with Wi-Fi by the end of the summer, Riley said. Some buildings on campus don’t have access to a good Wi-Fi connection, and other areas have no connection at all.
“We have to be Wi-Fi-enabled for this to be an attractive place for students,” Riley said.
UM has budgeted $500,000 for its campus-wide Wi-Fi plan. Riley said he don’t expect to spend the whole amount to finish the project.
The University believes campus Wi-Fi will have an effect on enrollment and make UM more attractive to prospective students. But Riley said the project doesn't end when they cover the whole campus with Wi-Fi. It’s a continuous effort to make sure UM is providing its students and faculty with the resources they need for their education and social lives.
Most universities have Wi-Fi problems — a good signal in some areas, but difficulty connecting consistently across campus, Riley said.
“It’s a game changer for the University,” Riley said. “It takes something that was a negative for the students and turn it into a positive.”