By this time next year, USC students should be able to access the Internet in every classroom and dorm after AT&T installs high-speed wireless broadband across its campus.
It’s a great move for students, said Lashika Palmer, a Charleston senior, who wishes the plan had been in place when she was a freshman.
“It will make life more convenient and more comfortable,” Palmer said.
The deal between AT&T and the University of South Carolina was announced Thursday, but it will take almost a year for the Wi-Fi service to blanket campus, said Jeff Farnham, USC’s deputy chief information officer.
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USC will pay AT&T between $60,000 and $70,000 a month once the wireless service is completely installed, Farnham said. Dan Sisson, an AT&T regional vice president in the Carolinas, would not disclose how much his company was investing to build the Wi-Fi system on campus.
Right now, wireless access is available at the Russell House, the library and the Horseshoe.
“As mobile as students are, this is going to allow them a lot of flexibility with their academic studies,” he said.
Wi-Fi access will be free for students, faculty and staff. They will use their university ID numbers to log on.
USC and AT&T are working to make the wireless service available to campus guests, who would pay a fee on a credit card for temporary access. That plan would work similar to AT&T’s wireless service at Starbucks.
USC students, faculty and staff would be able to use their campus wireless accounts to access any AT&T wireless hot spot in South Carolina, including Starbucks and McDonald’s, Sisson said.
For students such as Palmer, the increased access will be a blessing because they can use their laptops to follow lectures and to log on to the Internet inside classrooms when they give presentations, she said.
Wi-Fi- service also will be convenient for students who live in dorms where space is limited, she said.
“You already have a bunch of cords in your way,” she said.
AT&T and USC workers are surveying the campus to find the best locations for antennas and other equipment needed for the service, Farnham said.
They want to figure out the most efficient way to cover the campus while avoiding placing unsightly antennas all over the place, he said.
The Russell House, library and Horseshoe will be among the first areas to be brought into the AT&T system, Farnham said.
The university’s building services staff will work out a plan to install Wi-Fi in other buildings at times when classes and other activities won’t be interrupted, he said.
Most buildings will be hot by the end of the fall semester, Sisson said.
But most dorms won’t be outfitted until fall 2010, Farnham said.
AT&T’s Wi-Fi service should be faster and more reliable than what is in place now, Farnham said.
USC’s wireless technology is out of date for today’s students who use laptops, iPhones and other mobile devices, Farnham said.
“As students show up with their new equipment, it doesn’t work with our technology,” he said.
USC decided to hire AT&T to operate its Wi-Fi service because it would be less expensive than upgrading the equipment the university already owns, Farnham said.
“The cost for AT&T was substantially less than if we tried to do it ourselves because they have a nationwide network to leverage versus us putting in something brand new,” he said.
AT&T will install, manage and provide maintenance for the systems, Sisson said.
Palmer, who lives off campus, plans to bring her laptop more often and use it between classes.
“I don’t want to go home because that’s a waste of time,” she said Thursday as she reviewed notes while sitting on a bench outside the Russell House. “As you can see, I like to sit outside and study. I would like to continue that.”
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.