Perennial groans regarding the inadequacies of the College's Internet connectivity may finally fall silent. The College has nearly completed the installation of the world's fastest wireless technology, a process which began in early December.

Mitch Davis, Bowdoin's chief information officer, negotiated a deal with Cisco that has brought the company's brand new, top-of-the-line wireless system to campus.

According to Steve Berlucchi, an account manager for Cisco, Bowdoin was among the first three organizations to receive a shipment of the company's new Aironet 3600 Series wireless access points.

Davis believes that the new access points afforded the College—at least at the time that it received the units—what was perhaps the fastest connection in the world.

However, whether or not Bowdoin actually has the fastest internet connection is subject to a number of factors, as Berlucchi noted, such as server location and the hardware of the device connecting.

Either way, Davis reported that tests of the new equipment showed that it would provide users on campus with speeds up to 10 times faster for both casual activity like web browsing and more demanding activity like file downloading and uploading.

A few students have already taken notice of these changes.

"It just seems faster," said Zach Morrison '14, referring to the capabilities of the new network. "I can have more than one application open without it slowing down, and it loads Netflix a lot faster."

A fixture at Bowdoin since last fall, the student-run Information Technology Advisory Council provided the initial push for the new technology.

The council members encouraged Davis to look into introducing a new wireless network at the College after a number of their classmates raised issues with the old system.

"A lot of students were complaining about shoddy access around a lot of parts of campus," said Council Co-President Matt Glatt '14.

In his previous role as the chief information officer at Stanford Law School, Davis had personally worked with Cisco CEO John Chambers to set up a wireless network for the school's students and faculty. Davis was able to leverage his earlier dealings with the company so that Bowdoin had the privilege of being one of the first organizations to receive a shipment of Cisco's latest generation of access points.

Although he stated that he was unable to confirm which other organizations had received the first shipment of the product, Berlucchi outlined three additional reasons why Bowdoin was selected to premiere the Aironet 3600 series units.

First, he said, Cisco was looking for a tech-savvy information technology department that would be able to implement the new technology quickly.

Second, it was well-established that users of the network at Bowdoin—that is, students and professors—had been using the wireless space in novel ways and thus possessed a certain level of technical expertise.

Lastly, Cisco hopes to document Bowdoin's experience implementing the wireless network (and an Ethernet switch that Berlucchi said the College is expected to introduce this summer) in a press release that it will put together in the near future.

"We knew we could count on Mitch and his team to be brutally honest about the things they do like and the things they don't like," said Berlucchi.

Bowdoin received the new hardware on November 30, according to Davis. Within three weeks, IT had the new equipment up and running.

Although most devices with wireless Internet capabilities today employ only one or two radio-based spatial streams, explained Davis, Cisco's access points can support devices that receive three.

Newer smart phones and the up-and-coming line of iPads with the capacity to support three streams will therefore be able to take full advantage of the network allowed by the new access points.

Davis also noted that the four transmitters and four receivers on each new unit direct bandwidth and transmission signals at individual devices attempting to access the network.

This process, known as multiple-input multiple-output beamforming, effectively allows for more thorough coverage across a large wireless setting like Bowdoin's.

In indoor environments, metal can redirect wireless radio waves away from their intended direction, but the new access points use four transmitter antennae to overcome this obstacle.

According to Davis, they also do a better job of distributing bandwidth across units—something that is important because any given access point can readily support only a limited capacity of bandwidth.

Of the 450 total access points received from Cisco, IT has yet to install 25.

According to Davis, those remaining devices will be deployed once it has been determined what areas of campus are most saturated with wireless activity.

Davis reported yesterday that he was starting to receive same feedback about how the new network is being utilized.

He reported that the number of devices subscribing to those access points and the total bandwidth of the usage had both doubled from one year ago, effectively quadrupling the amount of bandwidth in use.

While the old network would have been unable to support that amount of traffic efficiently, Davis said, the new Cisco access points are more than capable of handling the demand.