Thinking about installing a Wi-Fi system in your building or throughout your campus? A recent conversation among subscribers to the CAST listserv yielded some tips you might find useful.

The Wi-Fi discussion began when a CAST member in Worcester, PA, posted a message on the listserv describing how the organization’s residents were “clamoring for ‘free’ campus wide wireless service.” 

The member asked other listserv subscribers to share their experiences with Wi-Fi. Here’s a synthesis of their responses.  

A Range of Experience

Members replying to the listserv query had a range of experience with Wi-Fi, with several organizations reporting that they had installed Wi-Fi on campus as long as 5 or 10 years ago.

Several members also shared that they were investigating the possibility of installing a Wi-Fi system. One member described Wi-Fi in the organization’s 25 housing properties as “informal.” Residents currently sit in the common room with their laptops and Kindles in order to catch Wi-Fi signals that “leak” out of the administrator’s office.

Wi-Fi Coverage

A CAST member in northern Virginia reported that its 5-year-old Wi-Fi system was accessible from both inside and outside the organization’s high-rise building. 

While several members provided Wi-Fi access throughout their nursing units, most reported only offering Wi-Fi “hot spots” in the common areas of independent living buildings. Wi-Fi is not generally available in individual apartments and cottages.

Other Wi-Fi Uses

Providing Internet access to residents was only one use of Wi-Fi systems. In addition, listserv subscribers reported using Wi-Fi to:

  • Power Wi-Fi phones used by staff.
  • Facilitate a personal emergency response system (PERS) consisting of bathroom pull chords and resident-worn pendants. One community extended its Wi-Fi network outdoors to support PERS alerts when residents wear their pendants on the campus grounds.
  • Support a variety of nursing activities, including a nurse call system, nursing and point of care devices on mobile carts, and clinician access to the organization’s Electronic Medical Records system. 
  • Enable information sharing from security cameras and door controls.

Separate Wi-Fi Systems

To ensure the security of the organization’s business operations, most respondents maintain separate Wi-Fi systems for the organization’s residents and its employees. Organizations achieve this separation by providing different service set identifiers (SSIDs), which employee and resident computers and devices use to access different segments of the Wi-Fi system.

Typically, resident networks provide access only to the Internet and not to the organization’s internal communications network. Employees generally must enter a password to gain access to an organization’s business network.

However, a Greenwood Village, CO, member reported that organization-owned computers use a pass-through authentication to auto-connect to the business network without the need for passwords.

One organization reported using a separate cable provider for its resident network to further enhance data security.

Managing Bandwidth

Members take a variety of approaches to managing bandwidth within the campus in order to ensure that resident use of the Internet does not slow down the organization’s business network. 

This helps prevent the need to purchase additional bandwidth during periods when the secure business network experiences peak usage.

A member in Garfield Heights, OH, described a firewall appliance that allows the organization’s secure business network to “borrow” a limited amount of bandwidth from the public network during peak times. 

Likewise, a Colorado member described a “traffic throttling” feature that dedicates the bulk of bandwidth to the organization’s business network.

Wi-Fi Access

Most listserv responders provide Wi-Fi access to residents at no extra charge. However, a member in Ft. Dodge, IA reported that 60 residents pay $22 a month to use the organization’s public Wi-Fi network. The member said that this price represents a good deal for residents and is profitable for the organization.

Join the Listserv

Interested in hearing what your colleagues have to say about a particular technology issue? Join the CAST listserv. Log on to and choose the CAST/Technology listserv. 

If you experience any problems, send an email to LeadingAge CAST Associate Director Paul Burnstein.