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While I agree this issue should be considered mostly non-technical, it seems to me that modifications to the building structure (radio wave transparency) could be legally used in such cases. I remember there was a security specification for preventing radio signals from leaving a building (was that Tempest?). Suppose the walls were impermeable to radio waves, then it seems to me that the university could certainly control whether their own WiFi was active during certain times of day, and prohibit others from installing Wifi in the room. I would guess that retrofitting this radio wave blocking is expensive.  It may even be expensive to build in new construction.

 

Kevin

 

Comments

Message from luke.fernandez@gmail.com

Is addressing the problem of digital distraction through technology always an expensive option? Why not find those classrooms on campus where there's still a wifi deadzone and make their locations known to faculty? I doubt if very many faculty would go to the trouble of actively arranging to use them. But it might help ingratiate us a little more with constituencies who have sensible reasons for disagreeing with the proposition that this is strictly a classroom management issue and not a technology issue. There are other things we can think of doing to to help mitigate the problem of digital distraction and they don't all cost an arm and a leg. Some of them are absurd (and some of them more practical) but talking about them can signal that we're at least mindful of the problem and how much it plagues faculty on campus. Here's a couple of ideas: 1) Invite William Powers (author of Hamlet's Blackberry) to give a talk on campus. Or if you have the money bring Nicholas Carr author of The Shallows. Both writers have spent time thinking about digital distraction and ways of mitigating it's effects. 2) Build some cabins on the periphery of campus where students and faculty can retreat to. 3) In your mobile apps that allow students to download their class schedules to their phones, build in utilities that automatically disable the ringer while in class (and reenable it when class ends). 4) Create a grindr type app that allows faculty (and admins who are running meetings) to broadcast a Bluetooth signal. When students (or fellow administrators) walk into the broadcasted area they are alerted that they have entered a "Walden Zone" and that the broadcastee is asking fellow cell phone users to adopt a particular cell phone etiquette. 5) Show the following short viral video clip during your next campus and have a chat about it: http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com/2012/02/william-powers-and-technol... 6) If you are sponsoring mobile app initiatives on campus encourage developers to consider building Cinemode type apps for education( http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com/2013/01/cinemode-walden-zone-app-f... ) Cheers, Luke http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com
I know that some institutions have tried various methods of blocking Internet access in classrooms to keep students focused on the class. Whether you have tried this or not, or whether you agree with the idea or not, I thought it would be interesting for people to know about a case where the FCC is starting legal action against a company in Alabama for blocking cell-phone access for employees during the workday using signal jamming technology. It might be a stretch to think this might apply to blocking WiFi access, but still puts an interesting spin on it. Here's a link to the FCC notice: http://goo.gl/MfAJ9 

Whether or not you consider your campus network a "private" network, WiFi operates in public radio spectrum. Notice the $144,000.00 fine!

 - Mark
--
Mark Berman, Chief Information Officer
Siena College
515 Loudon Road
Loudonville, NY  12211
(518)782-6957,  Fax: (518)783-2590
Siena College is a learning community advancing the ideals of a liberal arts education, rooted in its identity as a Franciscan and Catholic institution.

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure, or distribution is prohibited. If you received this e-mail and are not the intended recipient, please inform the sender by e-mail reply and destroy all copies of the original message.

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

Message from rpickett@mail.sdsu.edu

I believe the case you mentioned is a result of altering or blocking frequencies deliberately which is a violation of the FCC laws.  There are capabilities to turn off access points in particular areas.  This wouldn't involve the actual blocking of a frequency, simply denying service.  In some of our buildings the thick walls do an admirable job of attenuating the signals themselves!

I have had a few requests to turn off service in classrooms, which I denied.  It takes too much administrative effort to support such a request and in my opinion denies our students the freedom of access.  If professors can't gain the focus of their students turning off wireless access is probably not the solution.



Rich Pickett
Chief Information Officer
San Diego State University


As the CIO at UC Berkeley, I used to keep track on a score sheet on the wall with a + and – and number totals indicating the number of faculty that wanted improved wireless access and those that wanted it shut off in a classroom.    Each had good reasons but neither side understood that the CIO isn't really in control of access to wireless technologies – individuals are. An inexpensive 4G wireless hotspot device in a backpack  and have your own hotspot often with  better coverage than overloaded university WiFi in a large lecture hall.

The bottom line is this is a classroom management issue, not a technology one.  If you get into a situation where you are trying to figure out how to block signal, your taking a step down a very slippery slope that is ultimately outside of your control.   My $.02.

Regards
Shel

Shelton Waggener
Senior Vice President, Internet2



From: <Berman>, Mark <mberman@SIENA.EDU>
Reply-To: "CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU" <CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU>
Date: Friday, May 10, 2013 9:18 AM
To: "CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU" <CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU>
Subject: [CIO] Is blocking WiFi legal?

I know that some institutions have tried various methods of blocking Internet access in classrooms to keep students focused on the class. Whether you have tried this or not, or whether you agree with the idea or not, I thought it would be interesting for people to know about a case where the FCC is starting legal action against a company in Alabama for blocking cell-phone access for employees during the workday using signal jamming technology. It might be a stretch to think this might apply to blocking WiFi access, but still puts an interesting spin on it. Here's a link to the FCC notice: http://goo.gl/MfAJ9 

Whether or not you consider your campus network a "private" network, WiFi operates in public radio spectrum. Notice the $144,000.00 fine!

 - Mark
--
Mark Berman, Chief Information Officer
Siena College
515 Loudon Road
Loudonville, NY  12211
(518)782-6957,  Fax: (518)783-2590
Siena College is a learning community advancing the ideals of a liberal arts education, rooted in its identity as a Franciscan and Catholic institution.

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure, or distribution is prohibited. If you received this e-mail and are not the intended recipient, please inform the sender by e-mail reply and destroy all copies of the original message.

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

My understanding is that cellular networks are licensed spectrum. You are not allowed to run any device that interferes with licensed spectrum without a license for that device. That has always been true. WiFi on the other hand uses unlicensed “public” spectrum. That is so to speak the wild west. You can do anything you want there and the FCC won’t care. That’s also why your microwave or ancient portable landline can kill your WiFi signal but not your cellular signal.

 

Travis Wooley

Director of IT

Adventist University of Health Sciences

 

From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Rich Pickett
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 12:25 PM
To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: *Suspicious URL* Re: [CIO] Is blocking WiFi legal?

 

I believe the case you mentioned is a result of altering or blocking frequencies deliberately which is a violation of the FCC laws.  There are capabilities to turn off access points in particular areas.  This wouldn't involve the actual blocking of a frequency, simply denying service.  In some of our buildings the thick walls do an admirable job of attenuating the signals themselves!

 

I have had a few requests to turn off service in classrooms, which I denied.  It takes too much administrative effort to support such a request and in my opinion denies our students the freedom of access.  If professors can't gain the focus of their students turning off wireless access is probably not the solution.

 

 


Rich Pickett

Chief Information Officer

San Diego State University

 

Even though Wi-Fi is unlicensed spectrum you can’t do just anything you want there.  It’s been a while since I looked at this but I believe these devices are operated under FCC Part 15 rules.  Those rules generally say that the device must not cause harmful interference and must accept any interference from other devices.  Devices operating in that spectrum must still be FCC authorized.   The FCC will not authorize jamming devices.

 

A useful document on jammers being illegal can be found at: http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/jammerenforcement/jamfaq.pdf.

 

Chris Michels

Director Computing and Communication Systems

Information Technology Systems, Northern Arizona University

928-523-6495

 

From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Wooley, Travis
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 9:31 AM
To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: Re: [CIO] *Suspicious URL* Re: [CIO] Is blocking WiFi legal?

 

My understanding is that cellular networks are licensed spectrum. You are not allowed to run any device that interferes with licensed spectrum without a license for that device. That has always been true. WiFi on the other hand uses unlicensed “public” spectrum. That is so to speak the wild west. You can do anything you want there and the FCC won’t care. That’s also why your microwave or ancient portable landline can kill your WiFi signal but not your cellular signal.

 

Travis Wooley

Director of IT

Adventist University of Health Sciences

 

From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Rich Pickett
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 12:25 PM
To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: *Suspicious URL* Re: [CIO] Is blocking WiFi legal?

 

I believe the case you mentioned is a result of altering or blocking frequencies deliberately which is a violation of the FCC laws.  There are capabilities to turn off access points in particular areas.  This wouldn't involve the actual blocking of a frequency, simply denying service.  In some of our buildings the thick walls do an admirable job of attenuating the signals themselves!

 

I have had a few requests to turn off service in classrooms, which I denied.  It takes too much administrative effort to support such a request and in my opinion denies our students the freedom of access.  If professors can't gain the focus of their students turning off wireless access is probably not the solution.

 

 


Rich Pickett

Chief Information Officer

San Diego State University

 

Exactly... so are Wifi management systems that use deauth packets to mitigate rogue APs causing "harmful interference"?

 - Mark


Message from rpickett@mail.sdsu.edu

Mark,

After your email, I was wondering that myself.  You pose a very valid question regarding rogue APs. I wonder if the FCC will develop a position on that aspect.  It isn't too much different than a DOS.

Rich Pickett
Chief Information Officer
San Diego State University


Mark,

 

I have often wondered that myself.  From an RF perspective they are not.  I don’t believe the FCC certification procedures go down to the 802.11 protocol level.  They cover RF frequencies transmitted, bandwidth, modulation modes, and for the digital transmission tests, things like what happens in a buffer overrun.  For DSS they make sure you follow the rules on channel hopping.   So I would argue that de-auth packets are not harmful interference.   I don’t know if this has been addressed by the FCC.    Companies have been doing de-auth for a while and I have heard of no legal challenges of the practice.

 

Chris

 

From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Berman, Mark
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 10:25 AM
To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: Re: [CIO] *Suspicious URL* Re: [CIO] Is blocking WiFi legal?

 

Exactly... so are Wifi management systems that use deauth packets to mitigate rogue APs causing "harmful interference"?

 

 - Mark

 

Message from luke.fernandez@gmail.com

Whatever the legal dimensions of this are as an I.T. person I don't feel that I can simply abdicate responsibility by suggesting that this is solely the instructor's problem or that it's just his/her fault for not presenting their material in an interesting way. After all, we are implicated in this: it's us who extended the campus networks and facilitated opportunities for digital distraction in the classroom. As we've discussed in former threads on this subject, Faraday cage classrooms may not be something that we can tenably offer but there are other tools that may help to mitigate the worst forms of digital interruptions and we can take inspiration from more commercial institutions for having already developed some of these tools. For example the next time you go to a Cinemark theatre download their Cinemode app (cf. http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com/2013/01/cinemode-walden-zone-app-f... ). It shuts off the phone while the person is in the theatre. In the interest of developing similar tools for use in educational settings I'm currently creating a mobile app which allows a student to download their class schedule but also provides the option to automatically disable their device while class is in session. ( If they elect the option it also alerts the faculty member to their choice. :) ) There are a few other tools we could develop. More generally, teaching and learning isn't just about connecting, it's also at times about disconnecting. In I.T. don't we have a responsibility to serve both of these imperatives? Cheers, Luke http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com
Message from mike.cunningham@pct.edu

How can any institution that uses text messaging as a primary means of issuing a campus alert, which I think just about every one of us do, even think about putting in place something that would prevent that alert from being received? Mike Cunningham Pennsylvania College of Technology -----Original Message----- From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Luke Fernandez Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 2:42 PM To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU Subject: Re: [CIO] *Suspicious URL* Re: [CIO] Is blocking WiFi legal? Whatever the legal dimensions of this are as an I.T. person I don't feel that I can simply abdicate responsibility by suggesting that this is solely the instructor's problem or that it's just his/her fault for not presenting their material in an interesting way. After all, we are implicated in this: it's us who extended the campus networks and facilitated opportunities for digital distraction in the classroom. As we've discussed in former threads on this subject, Faraday cage classrooms may not be something that we can tenably offer but there are other tools that may help to mitigate the worst forms of digital interruptions and we can take inspiration from more commercial institutions for having already developed some of these tools. For example the next time you go to a Cinemark theatre download their Cinemode app (cf. http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com/2013/01/cinemode-walden-zone-app-f... ). It shuts off the phone while the person is in the theatre. In the interest of developing similar tools for use in educational settings I'm currently creating a mobile app which allows a student to download their class schedule but also provides the option to automatically disable their device while class is in session. ( If they elect the option it also alerts the faculty member to their choice. :) ) There are a few other tools we could develop. More generally, teaching and learning isn't just about connecting, it's also at times about disconnecting. In I.T. don't we have a responsibility to serve both of these imperatives? Cheers, Luke http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com
Message from luke.fernandez@gmail.com

Interesting. A good cinemode app for education (what would a good name for it be? my favorite is Waldenzone or maybe Edumode?) could make an exception for those types of messages. Luke

I cannot agree enough with Shelton and others who know this is a classroom management issue, and not a technology issue requiring us to deliver a solution.

 

I have had to explain at various times to faculty members that our Aps are shared by several physical areas and not just confined to one classroom, so I can’t turn it off. This seems to have worked so far.

 

In a collaboration session with a number of computing faculty a couple of years ago, this topic was raised by one of the CS instructors, but before I could answer him, one of his colleagues piped up and

Said ‘If your classes weren’t so darned boring the students might pay more attention in class; I don’t have that problem’  Everyone laughed and I filed this one away with a silent thank you and a smile.

 

Ian McLeod, CCP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P

CIO

Douglas College

Box 2503, 700 Royal Avenue

New Westminster, BC  V3L 5B2

Direct Line: 604-527-5870

Cell: 604-362-5332

Email: mcleodi1@douglascollege.ca

 

 

While I agree this issue should be considered mostly non-technical, it seems to me that modifications to the building structure (radio wave transparency) could be legally used in such cases. I remember there was a security specification for preventing radio signals from leaving a building (was that Tempest?). Suppose the walls were impermeable to radio waves, then it seems to me that the university could certainly control whether their own WiFi was active during certain times of day, and prohibit others from installing Wifi in the room. I would guess that retrofitting this radio wave blocking is expensive.  It may even be expensive to build in new construction.

 

Kevin

 

Active jamming is illegal.  Passive blocking, for example through screens in walls (building a so-called Faraday cage) is o.k., but expensive.

 

 

-----------------------------

Scott F. Midkiff, Ph.D.

Vice President for Information Technology & Chief Information Officer

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Virginia Tech

314 Burruss Hall (0169)

Blacksburg, VA 24061

540-231-4227

http://www.it.vt.edu/

 

 

 

 

Message from luke.fernandez@gmail.com

Is addressing the problem of digital distraction through technology always an expensive option? Why not find those classrooms on campus where there's still a wifi deadzone and make their locations known to faculty? I doubt if very many faculty would go to the trouble of actively arranging to use them. But it might help ingratiate us a little more with constituencies who have sensible reasons for disagreeing with the proposition that this is strictly a classroom management issue and not a technology issue. There are other things we can think of doing to to help mitigate the problem of digital distraction and they don't all cost an arm and a leg. Some of them are absurd (and some of them more practical) but talking about them can signal that we're at least mindful of the problem and how much it plagues faculty on campus. Here's a couple of ideas: 1) Invite William Powers (author of Hamlet's Blackberry) to give a talk on campus. Or if you have the money bring Nicholas Carr author of The Shallows. Both writers have spent time thinking about digital distraction and ways of mitigating it's effects. 2) Build some cabins on the periphery of campus where students and faculty can retreat to. 3) In your mobile apps that allow students to download their class schedules to their phones, build in utilities that automatically disable the ringer while in class (and reenable it when class ends). 4) Create a grindr type app that allows faculty (and admins who are running meetings) to broadcast a Bluetooth signal. When students (or fellow administrators) walk into the broadcasted area they are alerted that they have entered a "Walden Zone" and that the broadcastee is asking fellow cell phone users to adopt a particular cell phone etiquette. 5) Show the following short viral video clip during your next campus and have a chat about it: http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com/2012/02/william-powers-and-technol... 6) If you are sponsoring mobile app initiatives on campus encourage developers to consider building Cinemode type apps for education( http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com/2013/01/cinemode-walden-zone-app-f... ) Cheers, Luke http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com
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