Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., has the best wireless internet access of any college campus in the nation, a survey by Intel Corp. has found. The survey also shows an explosion of wireless internet access on college campuses nationwide over the past year alone.

“Last year, it was almost a novelty,” said Bert Sperling, principal author of the survey. “This year, it’s almost expected.”

Seventy-four percent of the top 50 schools in the survey have 100-percent wireless coverage, up from 14 percent last year. According to the survey, the top 50 most “unwired” campuses are, on average, 98 percent covered by a wireless network, up from 64 percent last year.

Sperling examined nearly 1,000 colleges across the United States. The top 50 were ranked based on the amount of Wi-Fi coverage, how the technology was used, the number of undergraduate students enrolled, and the computer-to-student ratio. Rounding out the top five were Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo; the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio; Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.; and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

At Ball State, wireless access points–which send and receive signals to personal computers and other devices–began going up in 2002. But most of the campus wasn’t covered until this year.

The school has more than 625 wireless access points spread across about 600 acres.

“Students can work on projects wherever they are,” said O’Neal Smitherman, Ball State’s vice president of information technology.

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