FHSU expands broadband service around campus

Hays Daily News
FHSU has expanded its broadband service to include a large outdoor area surrounding campus.

Students, faculty, staff and visitors to Fort Hays State University will no longer have to get near a building to receive quality WiFi service.

Aided by funds from the CARES Act originated by the U.S. Department of Treasury during the pandemic, FHSU expanded its broadband service to include a large outdoor area surrounding campus academic and administrative buildings.

The expansion gives students avenues to remain close to broadband access while taking online and hybrid classes while also maintaining social distancing practices. There now is a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor WiFi connection without dropping any calls or videos.  Students or faculty can also access the internet while sitting in their vehicle in designated parking lots. The new service will benefit faculty wishing to hold classes outdoors, especially during the pandemic.

“This project was very timely, because our vendor – Aruba Networks – had just announced the release of its outdoor WiFi 6 equipment,” said Derek Johnson, manager of network operations for FHSU’s Technology Services. “So the hardware we deployed supports the new WiFi 6 standard and readies us for the upcoming generation of devices that use the new standards.”

WiFi 6 is a set of new technologies that are faster and more efficient and can handle more devices simultaneously than ever before.

The new access area covers approximately 60 acres in the shape of a baseball diamond. It encompasses the quad, green spaces around academic and administrative buildings and parking lots, as well as street area parking – all on the east side of Big Creek.

The new WiFi transmitters are housed in 23 sturdy, gray columns that range from 5 to 20 feet in height and placed in areas near trees, buildings and open areas around campus. The shorter transmitter columns, called bollards, are located in 15 different spots – several near benches on the quad.

Johnson researched the ways other universities were dealing with pandemic challenges, and he learned that some set up tents and installed temporary WiFi with mobile hotspots to accommodate outdoor classes.

“That works well, but we wanted to make this a permanent service and install it properly,” he said. “From now on, even when we get past the pandemic, we will have quality outdoor WiFi.”