Wireless service available at Willard

By Paolo Cisneros

If flights are delayed this holiday travel season, travelers flying out of Willard Airport in Savoy will be able to stay connected to the people they are trying to visit while waiting for their flights.

UI Public Wireless Internet was recently installed at Willard Airport allowing the general public Internet access from any location inside the airport.

Mike Smeltzer, director of Network Communications for CITES, helped bring WiFi to the airport at the request of Willard officials.

“For some time there had been UIUC Wireless at Willard, but not everyone who flies out of there is affiliated with the University,” he said. “They came to us in the hopes that we could provide wireless Internet to the general public using the same infrastructure as the current network.”

The UI Public Wireless network was released by CITES this past fall and is so far available at Willard, the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital.

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“These are all places that want to attract the general public,” Smeltzer said. “They wanted to enhance the experience people got when they visited their facilities, and the fact of the matter is that people have come to expect Internet connection.”

Initially, a wireless network was installed in each of the aforementioned locations as part of a trial period. Once the trial period had ended, each location decided to keep the network and now pays a monthly fee to CITES for the ability to do so.

When individuals log onto UI Public Wireless, they are required to provide their names as well as basic contact information. This measure is meant to ensure that any problems they may have regarding their connection can be promptly remedied, but also to ensure that users are kept accountable for their actions while online.

While the UI Public Wireless network has proven effective for travelers and people unaffiliated with the University, CITES officials are quick to remind people that the network’s bandwidth is significantly lower than that of UIUC Net, the network provided specifically for the University community. As a result, students and faculty can be better served by the UIUC Net.

“UI Public Wireless is provided as a convenience for people so that they’re able to check their e-mail and stay in touch while they’re away from home,” Smeltzer said.

Now that the network is firmly in place in four locations throughout Urbana-Champaign, Smeltzer said he has reason to believe that more locations will begin requesting the service.

“In time we expect the Illini Union to get on board,” he said. “Conceivably, that could happen as early as next summer.”

Other locations are set to follow Willard’s example as well.

“There are other places that are potential candidates,” Smeltzer said. “I think the ice arena is definitely one because they have lessons on the weekends, and if I was a parent who had to sit there on those cold bleachers for an hour every week, I’d want to bring my laptop.”

Regardless of which establishments are next to request the service, wireless service at Willard has made holiday traveling a little more bearable, Smeltzer said.

“It’s proven itself as a really great way for travelers to stay in touch no matter where they are headed over the holidays,” he said.