Verizon to Lead Wi-Fi Overhaul

Georgetown will perform a $27.5 million, five-year overhaul of the university’s entire Wi-Fi infrastructure starting this January in partnership with Verizon Communications, according to Vice President for University Information Services and Chief Information Officer Judd Nicholson.

The university and Verizon will begin the three-year project this January, starting with the buildings with the oldest Wi-Fi infrastructure, including the Rafik B. Hariri Building, the Intercultural Center and the Preclinical Science Building on the Medical Center campus.

Nicholson said the deal will enable Georgetown to introduce cutting-edge technologies.

“What Verizon has also proposed is not just an uplifting of the infrastructure and improving the Wi-Fi connectivity but also a partnership that will allow Georgetown to benefit from new and emerging technologies,” Nicholson said. “We can benefit and really learn from all the innovation and technology that is really going on.”

Nicholson said the new technologies brought by Verizon could help analyze student traffic patterns on campus and alleviate congestion issues.

“Those are things we can bring to campus — maybe looking at traffic patterns and how students move in and out of buildings and looking at ways to improve the student experience,” Nicholson said.

Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh said the new partnership would fix existing Wi-Fi issues on campus and allow the university to fully take advantage of modern innovations in technology.

“This strategic partnership will not only address the critical need to replace aging infrastructure but will also provide the foundation for future innovation. The timing is both necessary and presents an opportunity to leverage modern, emergent technologies in a holistic campus wide manner,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Nicholson said he does not anticipate any disruptive construction work to occur with the infrastructure overhaul other than some minor digging to upgrade underground fiber-optic cables.

Verizon Enterprise Solutions Director of Corporate Communications Kevin King said Verizon is eager to work with the university in implementing an infrastructure overhaul plan that will make Georgetown a leader in innovation in education.

“Verizon is excited to partner with Georgetown University on its multi-year technology upgrade plan,” King wrote in an email to the The Hoya. “Judd Nicholson and his team have an aggressive plan focused on sustainability, safety and innovation that will directly benefit the students, and put Georgetown at the forefront of educational technology.”

The Hoya reported Sept. 16 that the university was planning a Wi-Fi overhaul, with four companies — AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications, CenturyLink and Windstream — vying for the contract.

Talks to address various problems surrounding the university’s Wi-Fi infrastructure began in 2014, according to Nicholson.

The Student Technology Advisory Board, consisting of students, staff and faculty addressing technology issues on campus, chose Verizon during the fall of 2015. Over the past year, UIS and Verizon have negotiated the terms of the contract. UIS has not publically announced Verizon’s receiving the contract.

“We pulled together a group of stakeholders to look at all of those proposals,” Nicholson said. “Over a year we have gone through to structure a contract that is really representative of a relationship between Verizon and Georgetown, and it is not just transactional but a true partnership with a premier technology provider.”

According to Nicholson, Verizon was chosen to complete the overhaul because of the similar goals it shares with the university on uses of technology to promote sustainability and the opportunity it provides for the university to use cutting-edge developments in technology.

“It aligned with some of our long-term technology strategies so our engagement with the city, with the District on Smart Cities, the ability to leverage emerging and future technologies as well as where our values are aligned on sustainability,” Nicholson said.

According to Nicholson, the Wi-Fi in all buildings on campus will be fully upgraded to provide a consistent internet experience.

“Many of our buildings have infrastructure that is so old that it can’t take advantage of the new software in optimizing performance so we are going to focus on the oldest buildings and upgrading that Wi-Fi and we will work our way through every building across all the campus at Georgetown,” Nicholson said.

Verizon’s partnership with Georgetown will also develop goals in line with the current White House Smart Cities Initiative, which aims to use technology to reduce poverty, traffic congestion, crime and other societal issues.

Nicholson said in three years, the partnership with Verizon will also revamp the university’s cybersecurity measures. Verizon will also provide the university with cybersecurity advice and guidance.

The Hoya reported April 8 that a university Wi-Fi outage March 31 was the result of a cyber attack.

“We are going to be able to leverage Verizon’s expertise in what is called a security operations center,” Nicholson said. “We will get the advantage of any new technology they may introduce to mitigate things like denial of service or to mitigate hacking issues.”

STAB Chair Yafet Negash (COL ’19) said the board supports the new partnership and its goals of creating a robust technology infrastructure for the future.

“On the new network initiative, STAB’s main contribution was to highlight the current infrastructure’s shortcomings from the student body’s perspective,” Negash wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are pleased that the University has finally recognized the importance of a secure, reliable, and robust network solution, and excited that it has invested accordingly.”

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