Imagine this. You’re in college, settling down in “your” booth at the local coffeeshop with a decked out Lenovo R400 and you realize that all the research for your midterm essay is located on the History Department’s shared network drive. If you’re a student at almost any school other then Northern Michigan University (NMU) you’d have to abandon your already warmed up booth, guzzle your double hazelnut latte and trek back to campus to download the research to your hard drive; but students at NMU don’t even have to depend on the coffeeshop’s flaky wifi connection thanks to the roll-out of WiMAX at NMU and in the college town of Marquette.
On the 10th Anniversary of the schools Laptop program, which equips students with Lenovo R400 laptops as part of their tuition, NMU announced that with the help of Intel, Lenovo, Motorola and the FCC it has covered close to 100% of the college town in WiMAX; providing students with on campus access anywhere in town.
WiMAX is a 4G data connection that provides high speed connections over a large area with speeds that typically exceed the limitations of the 3G data devices widely available from cell phone companies. The current laptops provided to incoming students will feature WiMAX connection built right in and students who have the older Lenovo R61 laptops can purchase a USB WiMAX dongle or borrow one from the library.
From a student perspective this is really cool! I can’t recall the number of times I missed having access to campus-only resources while I was out and about town. Even today as I work on a college campus, I can’t fathom how students handle off campus access since they lack the ability to VPN into campus like faculty and staff are able to. Academic uses aside; students can take full advantage of online video sites like Hulu, upload to YouTube, download new music and update their Facebook pages anywhere in town without the need for a costly data plan!
The students at NMU are incredibly lucky to have access to campus resources through a WiMAX data connection which is something plenty of geeks, myself included, would love to have. Hopefully joint ventures like the one at NMU will provide more communities, colleges and businesses with access to WiMAX and provide greater infrastructure for the service as it matures.