Back when the underground cables providing campus's data networking and telecommunications were installed more than 30 years ago, fewer than 100 devices were on Brooks's network at once. Today, 2,500 devices fire up simultaneously on any given day. Add in pandemic protocols that can require students to livestream classes from their dorm room and an upgrade moved to the top of the wish list this holiday season. Thankfully, Santa came early.
In early December, contractors broke ground on a project to upgrade Brooks with fiber-optic cabling that will provide a "significant improvement to our existing infrastructure" when students and employees return in 2021, said Director of Network Services Mike English. "We've upgraded our Internet and most of our equipment, so this is the piece that will help us push the faster speeds from the library out to all of the buildings around campus."
In other words, those trenches dug between Buhl House and the Head of School's House (and traveling behind Mr. Packard's residence and Alumni House) that end at Thorne House will start a new era of connectivity on campus.
The existing cables were installed when there was no WiFi on campus, said English, "never mind dozens of students livestreaming video at the same time from multiple buildings."
"Our existing fiber cables were great for our original need, but now with every student and adult bringing three or more devices with them to campus, not to mention the wireless projection in classrooms, exterior light poles on WiFi and everything in-between, our old fiber just didn't cut it anymore," said English. "We noticed that more than ever this fall, as 30-plus students were in a dorm trying to livestream classes at the same time."
Throughout December, work has been buzzing along on the project with a landscaping company installing new conduits and running a path from the library to the area outside of Thorne House. (The fiber hub in the basement of the Advancement Office is moving to the Center for the Arts and will feed the Head of School House, Center for the Arts, Thorne House, Alumni House, Admissions, Chapel, Farmhouse, Danforth Center and summer programs buildings). A wiring contractor will follow up and install the new fiber cables.
"The project will take about five or six months," said English. "The first part, installing the conduit, should be finished in January and then the new cables will be installed and activated, hopefully by the end of April."
Three similar projects will follow — installing fiber hubs to potential locations in the Link, Athletic Center and Chace House — to feed the remainder of campus and improve the quality of technology infrastructure for the entire school.
"Each building can be switched to the new fiber individually," said English. "So our hope is that in February we'll start having some buildings on the new fiber, which will be a huge improvement."
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Brooks' First Homecoming @Home
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