Campus-wide network upgrade to begin in March

Old copper cables will be removed in March to pave the way for installation of new fiber cables at Pierce College, according to the Technology Committee at their first meeting of the semester on Feb. 12.

The new fiber cables will be installed in May.

Data Communication Specialist Greg Whaling said the new cables “will accommodate whatever comes next,” and are expected to last 20-30 years.

The new fiber optic cables will play a critical role in the day-to-day operations on campus. Pierce relies on its network connectivity to run everything from air conditioners to fire alarms, so the infrastructure takes a high priority with the Technology Committee.

Whaling described the way in which the network is integrated into these various functions and utilities on campus.

“On-campus, there are five different systems to control the lights. There are about seven or eight different systems that will be security cameras. You have three fire alarm systems,” Whaling said. “When you say standardize, it means all of that.”

“Standardize” was the word of the day, with board members suggesting uniformity in both computers and software.

“Standards start sometimes by making sure you tie into IT by looking at the whole organization of IT and their validation process. If you’re buying systems that aren’t validated and part of our standard, that’s already a problem,” said Rolf Schleicher, the vice president of administrative affairs.

Standardizing computers doesn’t mean eliminating either Macs or PC’s, though, as committee co-chair Wendy Bass clarified.

“There are some departments that are using Macs. It doesn’t mean everyone’s going to go PC. When we say ‘standardize,’ we mean standardize Macs and standardize PC’s, specific to the departments that use that in their teaching practices,” said Bass, who is also the distance education coordinator.

The committee only briefly addressed WiFi issues on campus, but did not set any goals or objectives in concrete terms.

One major obstacle to the IT department is, of course, the budget.

“The infrastructure stuff alone, I could spend $3 million very easily, and without touching labor, just to get you where you should be,” Schleicher said.