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Mississippi College chooses BCI to go wireless on campus

A couple of years ago, historic Mississippi College (MC) began looking into bringing high-speed Internet connectivity to its students on the Clinton campus. MC students in the older dormitories were then using dial-up access. But high-speed Internet connectivity would offer speeds up to 10 times as fast as dial-up, and the college was eager to offer this improved service to its current on-campus student body, which numbers roughly 1,600, as well as to use it as a recruiting tool for prospects.

Still, there were many questions and challenges to face. Drilling holes in walls and ceilings and running wires through all of MC’s facilities, many of which are historic structures (the college is Mississippi’s oldest, established in 1826), was not only unthinkable, it was cost prohibitive as well. And MC wanted to provide its students the flexibility of access in all areas of the campus, such as the cafeteria, Piazza and MC Quad (outdoor areas).

It soon became apparent that the solution to these hurdles was to go with wireless Internet access. Though this solution alone didn’t answer MC’s other concerns, such as security and administrative burdens in system upkeep, the college felt it was headed in the right direction. The institution only needed to find the right company that could pull off this rather ambitious project. That “right company” proved to be Business Communications Inc. (BCI) of Ridgeland.

“Mississippi College’s most important asset is its students, and our goal is to stay at the forefront of technology to support their time with us,” said Barry Bounds, MC’s information technology director. “We began researching wireless high-speed Internet access as an alternative about two years ago. We were looking for a solution that offered maximum security with minimal administrative overhead.
(BCI’s) methodology, technical knowledge and implementation plan made our decision easy.”

BCI, founded in 1993 by CEO Tony Bailey, is a communications and network systems integrator with multiple offices in Ridgeland, Gulfport and Birmingham, Ala. The company offers a long list of services, from business software, cabling and hosting to network services, phones/voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) and repair, and is organized within three primary areas — computer networks, structured data cabling systems and the Internet products group. Its customer base is wide, and includes business, industry and government.

This year, BCI achieved the Wireless LAN Technology Specialization designation from Cisco Systems, and is a Cisco Silver Partner.

“We had dabbled in wireless, but we wanted to establish wireless as a niche´ market, so we brought some excellent wireless talent on board,” said BCI vice president of business development Mike McDade. “Wireless is really a different animal. You have to have a high level of expertise to do it right.”

On May 1, 2003, BCI representatives Tom Myers, Heath Walters and Bob Milner had their initial meeting with MC officials, and promptly started a wireless survey of the campus. Approximately two weeks later, BCI delivered the results of the survey for the proposed first phase of the project. Both MC and BCI said the survey was the key to the project’s success.

Senior account executive Walters said, “There was a lot of value in the pre-site survey. We had to come into MC and sell the technology, and educate the MC staff on wireless connectivity. It allowed us to sit down with MC and listen to them, understand their expectations and come up with a solution.”

BCI received the purchase order from MC for phase one January 29, 2004, and completed the work April 19. Areas included in phase one included the facilities Whittington Hall, Latimer-Webb Hall, Chrestman Hall, Gunter Hall, Mary Nelson Hall, Alumni Hall, BC Rogers Student Center, Leland Speed Library, as well as the Quad and the Piazza. (The Piazza is surrounded by Hampstead’s Café, Jennings Hall and Annex and Alumni Hall.)

Since the completion of phase one, BCI has installed wireless connectivity to the newly-renovated Ratliff Hall, Hampstead Café and Hederman Classroom. Three more phases are scheduled. They include the law school, various classrooms and the new men’s and women’s dormitories, which are already hard-wired for broadband Internet access. (MC’s School of Law, located in downtown Jackson, is currently undergoing construction on a new addition. It currently has approximately 400 students enrolled, and BCI’s work there will be conducted when the addition is completed, which is scheduled for the spring of 2005.)

Once all phases are completed, MC, which has a total student body of roughly 3,500, feels it can boast of having the latest and greatest when it comes to Internet connectivity.

A Baptist-affiliated institution, MC offers study programs in the College of Arts and Sciences and Schools of business, education, law and nursing. It provides eight undergraduate degrees in 53 fields and 14 graduate degrees in more than 23 fields. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools since 1922, MC ranks among the top 8% of private colleges in the nation in the number of its alumni who go on to earn doctoral degrees in all fields, and in 2003, U.S. News and World Report ranked the institution in its top best value listing.

“Mississippi College provides its students with the latest technology that will enhance their educational experience,” said Dr. Lloyd Roberts, MC’s senior vice president of business affairs and chief financial officer.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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