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Installation has begun to replace the once state-of-the-art system that transmits digital information throughout the Lafayette College campus with a high speed super network that will transport data, voice and video as fast as is technologically possible.

By August 2001, the new system will carry information between all 60 buildings on campus at a speed of 2 gigabits per second. The present Token Ring system moves data at 16 megabits per second speed.

“We’re talking about absolutely tremendous increases in speed, and therefore, capacity,” says James J. Klein, director of computing services.

Technicians have already installed the fiber backbone of the new ethernet system, which connects the three main hubs — the Alumni Hall of Engineering, Pardee Hall and Marquis Hall — into a giant triangle. Two parallel one gigabit communications channels have been installed, and the hardware is capable of handling eight one gigabit lines.

Residence halls, classroom buildings and administrative centers also will be connected directly into the hubs with fiber optic cables. The insides of the buildings are being rewired with Advanced Cabling System (ACS) high-speed copper cable so every desk can receive and transmit data at the highest speeds possible.

The goal is to have every administrative and academic building connected to the ethernet by the start of the fall ’01 semester. To date, a total of 15 of the 60 buildings on campus have been wired with ACS. Migration of those locations to the ethernet system is scheduled to begin in November.

The College is exploring the possibility of having the campus telephone system run through the network. The network also could include video multicast capability. And it could be set up for wireless networking.

In a parallel project, Lafayette has added a T3 fiber optic line to enable connections to the Internet at much faster speeds. The line has the immediate capacity to carry 12 megabits per second, four times as fast as previously possible, and can expand to accommodate 45 megabit transmission. This new T3 connection should be fully operational in early November.

At the start of the project there were approximately 2,000 data ports (called network drops) on campus. When the project is completed there will be more than 4,400 network drops. There will be one network drop for every student in each dorm room (called port-to-pillow) — a room with three students will now have three network drops.

Is new technology having an impact on students’ lives already? The age-old tradition of “camping out” at the registrar’s office to sign up for courses ends October 30, 2000, as the College moves to an online course registration system. Last December, the registrar’s office made grades, schedules, and transcripts available online.

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