[unisog] Wireless in residence building - Tricky problem

Tim O'Connor tim at roughdraft.org
Wed Nov 5 00:42:58 GMT 2003

On Tue, Nov 4, 2003, mjimenez at net.tufts.edu said:

>	One thing to consider is that the 2.4Ghz spectrum is publicly
>owned. I had a tentative request from a faculty member a year or two back
>that we "jam" this frequency range to prevent students from using wireless
>devices in classrooms during exams.
>	At the time, I casually consulted legal advice about this, and was
>informed that deliberately interfering with use of the unlicensed bands
>was illegal. You can use it all you'd like yourself, but you cannot
>*deliberately* interfere with someone else's use. I would speak to an
>attorney to get the fine points before pursuing this course of action.

I don't have a reference for this, but I recall that a few months ago,
there was some discussion in the local press about actions that were to
be undertaken by performance spaces -- chiefly theaters such as (I think)
Lincoln Center, as well as a couple of movie houses -- that planned to
install local jamming devices to disable audience cell phones during

There was a counter-argument offered to the effect of "what about a
doctor on call who is sitting in the audience and must be reached?" which
was never satisfactorily addressed.  At no time, in my recollection, did
anyone raise the thorny issue of the 2.4Ghz spectrum being public space
and thus protected from jamming.

At work, we have heard from several professors who hold classes in big,
amphitheater-style lecture halls that are covered by our APs.  The
professors are extremely concerned about students surfing web sites
during lectures, and demanded that our dean of academic affairs provide a
cutoff switch at the lectern so that lecturers can turn off APs remotely
while they lecture.

I remember that when last heard of, such a move was underway.  

There is recognition among many of us that it's not a good solution.  (At
a minimum, it completely screws up legitimate access in areas adjacent to
the cutoff AP, since any given AP services more than just a single room;
then there is always the issue of lecturers forgetting to turn the AP
back on; finally, who wins when a nearby room NEEDS the AP for legitimate
academic purposes while the lecture hall is in use and cut off?)  

Unfortunately, a decision was made that it was important to accommodate
faculty members so they can be more comfortable in the face of new
technology that makes them feel threatened.  This ragtag solution will be
phased in temporarily while various people adjust to the new realities
and while we figure out a better solution.

Nobody mentioned jamming equipment.  Someone DID propose disabling VPN
accounts for all students in the class, but that idea was swiftly shot
down as insanely unmanageable.  As for the rest, we're in a wait-and-see
state to see what happens next.

--tim o'connor

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