September 17, 2014

Scrolling Headlines:

UMass professor Elizabeth Chilton to speak in Madrid and Paris about importance of heritage studies -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

UMass club rugby hopes to continue momentum despite opening loss -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bizarre foods eaten worldwide -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

US should spend more on space -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Walking through a week of practice with UMass field hockey -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

UMass receives $37.5 million for environmental and sustainability initiatives -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Irish coffee recipe -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To fight ISIS, US must understand them, not chalk up actions to pure evil -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

UMass tennis is reloading, not rebuilding in 2014 -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fast food workers need more than $7.25 to sustain basic living -

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

UMass men’s cross country season-opening meet -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

UMass hosts lecture series focused on inequality -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ben Roethlisberger: Whipple taught me how to be a pro -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

U2 falls flat on “Songs of Innocence” -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recovering from anorexia on a health-obsessed campus -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bowling Green achieves upset win, Northern Illinois remains unbeaten -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

UMass grad student spends summer building sustainable homes -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Versatility of Rodney Mills an effective tool for UMass -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jhené Aiko stays strong on “Souled Out” -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Campus Perspective: New Blue Wall -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Downtown Amherst upgrades Wi-Fi system

Downtown Amherst just got a whole lot faster.

On Jan. 2, Amherst’s Information Technology Department announced the expansion of the town’s open Wi-Fi network, increasing the former number of access points from 14 to 35.

Billed as the “largest and fastest open municipal Wi-Fi network in Massachusetts,” the expansion makes the Internet accessible in downtown Amherst from Kendrick Park to beyond Route 9.

At a cost of $50,000, the new system provides speeds of 50 megabits per second and will continue to be free to use in the downtown area.

Amherst’s IT Director Kristopher Pacunas described the expansion as an important overhaul of the system that had been in place since 2007.

“Basically, we’ve replaced all the old stuff with brand new stuff,” Pacunas said. “It is much faster, more reliable, reaches farther, all those things.”

The goal of the new system is to attract more commercial traffic to town. While the system is an upgrade for the town as a whole, there is a specific focus on working individuals who travel to the shops in town and will be able to stay connected without fear of slow speeds or unreliable connectivity.

Tony Maroulis, the executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, believes the new system will prove its value by doing just as it was set out to do.

“With the number of tech entrepreneurs that we have here working in our cafes, and there are a lot, it certainly makes working remotely much easier for them,” Maroulis said. “This is a really smart economic development on the part of the town.”

In just its first two weeks in use, 20,000 unique devices had connected to the network, according to Pacunas.

“People visiting the downtown Amherst area can just about turn off their data plan and not incur any data usage charges,” Pacunas said. “As a consequence, more people will not only come to downtown Amherst, but they will stay longer.”

Pacunas believes that the upgraded Wi-Fi network could be an attraction to businesses that might decide to locate in the Amherst area. Because the system will provide an increased amount of traffic in commercial areas and easily accessible Internet access, he said, it could be a valuable factor to businesses.

Maroulis, however, sees the upgrade as more of a benefit to the individual traffic, rather than a business attraction.

“I don’t see it that way,” Maroulis said. “I see it more as keeping people here longer, keeping them within our shops and spending.

“It will be one of those things that will signal to businesses that Amherst is business friendly,” he added.

Niels la Cour, a senior campus planner at the University of Massachusetts, believes that the upgrade in Wi-Fi is a step in the right direction for the town.

“I think this is a really important piece,” la Cour said. “This is part of the kind of amenities that those students that come to take part in higher education here expect and demand.”

On the UMass campus Wi-Fi is available in every building, but unlike the upgraded system in the downtown area, it is not an outdoors system. Having just completed the overall master plan for the campus going forward, la Cour thinks that a campus-wide system is something that will be looked at in the future by the Office of Information Technologies.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at jokerman@student.umass.edu.

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