Telecom board helps steer campus improvements

The campus is spending nearly $100 million over six years to improve its telecommunications system. A committee led by computer science professor Matt Bishop will help that money do the most good.

Bishop, who helped steer earlier projects that improved wireless Internet access, chairs the 14-member Telecommunications Advisory Board. It represents the customers of the campus telecom network--which is nearly everyone at UC Davis--and advises the Information and Educational Technology department that runs the network on how the network should grow.

The work, critical to preparing the campus for the burgeoning data demands of the next decade, is continuing despite the difficult state budget. In fact, the committee and its feedback are especially relevant when budgets are tight, said Dave Klem, director of Communications Resources in IET (IET-CR).

"We know how to operate and staff the system," Klem said. The board offers guidance on strategy and priorities, and helps explain how faculty, staff and students use the system. "It is the right way to get alignment between IET-CR and the constituents," he said.

The six-year UCDNet3 plan will upgrade voice, data, video, wireless and cellular services managed by IET-Communications Resources. The new telecom equipment, already being installed in phases, will move data 10 times faster than the old one has. It offers more reliable electronics, better security, improved ability to prioritize network traffic, and increased wireless coverage and systems. It will support the fast transmission of huge data files needed to support advanced research, as well as high-definition video.

The committee will help decide where the improvements should occur first, among other goals. For 2009, Bishop also wants it to look at funding and how to upgrade telecom wiring in existin g buildings.

The current financial model, for example, charges per NAM--the wired network access module, or plug, where a user connects to the telecom network. "But in wireless, one NAM handles lots of people. So the way you're paying for it doesn't correlate with the way it's being used," Bishop said.

"Another goal is to help IET-CR determine when to upgrade many of the existing wired networks to buildings, so they can be used more effectively, and so that the equipment matches needs," he said. "At least we can say, look, here are the problems, here are some ideas."

The telecom board is a working group of the Campus Council for Information Technology (CCFIT). Bishop is a member of CCFIT's Steering Committee. The telecom board's membership includes students, staff and faculty, from areas as varied as veterinary medicine, music and engineering, to psychiatry, the campus library, and the College of Letters and Science. Sometimes IET-CR has specific questions for the board, Bishop said, and sometimes it wants general guidance.

"A lot of the campus infrastructure involves its telecommunications. Some is out of date, and that needs to be handled," Bishop said. "To continue to provide good service to the university, you have to stay current with the latest advances."