WiFi vs. Ethernet

Are you wireless or wired?

July 18, 2016

Let’s pretend that you are not reading these words on a phone.

You are not on a tablet. You are not using a desktop computer.

You have a browser open on an old-fashioned laptop computer.

How are you connected to the internet?

Is there an Ethernet cable attached to your computer? Or are you on getting to the web via WiFi?

What makes me ask you about your own path to the internet is that my own behaviors have changed.

Without really noticing, and with little comment, I now never ever connect to the internet with a wire. I’m wireless all the every time and all the time.

Each morning, I come to work and plug my laptop into a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. (And headphones). What I don’t plug in is an Ethernet cable.

My campus WiFi is fast and reliable. (How’s yours?)

The WiFi speed is plenty robust enough to do everything that I need to do on my machine.

Perhaps this reliance on WiFi is a function of not uploading or downloading big data or video files. If you work lots of data then I think you still want to be wired.  (Although you are probably using a desktop machine in that case).

For the work that most of us do - web browsing, e-mail, working on cloud-based collaborative platforms such as Google Docs - a campus WiFi connection (at least my campus) is more than adequate.

Being a laptop / WiFi person means that it is easy to go from place to place on campus with my laptop. Wherever my laptop is is where I can work.

How many of us who spend our days on college campuses are also WiFi only?

Is there a divide between how students, faculty, and staff connect to the Web?

My guess is that most students wouldn’t know what to do with an Ethernet cable. It would be like telling them that they needed to wear an oxygen tank and mask to breathe.

I bet that many folks on campus still plug in to the internet out of habit. There is no benefit or need for them to connect by wire - but they have done so for years and have not thought to break their routine.

Is the shift away from wired connections a development with an consequence?

To what extent does variation in the resources available across the postsecondary system play out in terms of campus WiFi coverage, reliability, and speed?

Is ubiquitous quality WiFi an indicator of institutional privilege and wealth? Or has WiFi moved into the realm of a utility, as present across the higher ed system as electricity and heat?

How do you connect to the internet?


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