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Wireless Networking Education Hardware Your Rights Online

University Bans Wireless Access Points 1211

Posted by michael
from the fight-the-man dept.
Slayk writes "The University of Texas at Dallas has adopted a policy of disallowing the use of 802.11b/g access points outside of those used for the campus-wide wireless network. While they have an understandable concern with ensuring the accessability of the school network, the rights of the students to use the unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum in the privacy of their own apartment are obviously being regulated by a body that is not the FCC. Students have until the 15th of September to comply with the policy, disable their wireless equipment, and string cat5 over the floor, or be subject to 'disciplinary action.'"
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University Bans Wireless Access Points

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  • by beh (4759) * on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:19AM (#10200189)
    If those apartments belong to the University, and the presence of your access point harms/disrupts the operation of their own network then to me it looks like it is well within the rights of the university to demand this - and as they can't single out a specific access point to cause the problem it seems just that they require ALL to be shut down.

    On the other if those apartments do not belong to the university, then I wouldn't see how they should even try and enforce this.

    In either case, it's not much of an issue - and it's not a freedom of speech / censorship issue, since they DO allow private access to the internet by wired means...
    • by VCAGuy (660954) * on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:22AM (#10200231)
      The trouble is that the 2.4GHz spectrum is unregulated. The college has no right to tell you that you can't use a legally licensed device in the 2.4GHz spectrum in the apartment.

      Now, hooking that AP up to the ResNet is certainly against the college's AUP, but that's not what's happening here. Students with private cable modems are setting up a private WiFi network. Since the 2.4GHz bands are unregulated, the FCC has sole regulatory authority over them--the college, no matter how prestigious, does not.

      • by Mr Guy (547690) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:24AM (#10200264) Journal
        No, it's called a lease agreement, with a change clause. Use the spectrum all you want, they are prohibiting a device, just like they can prohibit hotplates. If you don't like it, feel free to move out.
        • by Mr Guy (547690) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:30AM (#10200323) Journal
          As sort of a double whammy, there's also the: Code of Conduct [utdallas.edu] that has clauses that ALSO specifically allow them to institute arbitrary rules for the good of the campus community, as determined by them.
          • by bluGill (862) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:34AM (#10200394)

            Doesn't matter, federal law trumps all state and local regulations. The university is very likely (though IANAL) to loose any case that is brought against them in regards to this issue. The courts are very likely to say that the code of conduct cannot be used to ban unregulated wireless because only the federal government has that right.

            • by benzapp (464105) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @12:20PM (#10201818)
              I am afraid to inform you that your level of understanding of contracts and law is abysmal. Yes, thats right, you don't know jack shit about what you believe you do.

              Have you ever even rented an apartment?

              landlords (like the university) routinely restrict all kinds of legal behavior.

              I have seen leases that prohibit the possession of a firearm or prohibit smoking.

              There is absolutely no way any court in the country would find anything wrong with this regulation. If the tenant doesn't like it, they can simply find someplace else to live. its that simple.
              • And likewise you also don't know jack shit about the law.

                Have you ever written a lease agreement?

                There are many sorts of behaviour that landlords are expressly prohibited from restricting.

                While I do not know specifically about unlicensed transmitters in the 802.11 frequency, I do know that many other types of recievers and transmitters are protected by federal law. Landlords cannot prohibit satellite antenae less than one meter in diameter in any space under the sole control of the tenant.

                Leases can pr
              • There is absolutely no way any court in the country would find anything wrong with this regulation.

                As I suspected, the FCC begs to differ. [fcc.gov]

                From the second paragraph, "We also affirm that the rights that consumers have under our rules to install and operate customer antennas one meter or less in size apply to the operation of unlicensed equipment, such as Wi-Fi access points - just as they do to the use of equipment in connection with fixed wireless services licensed by the FCC."

                If Waterview wants to pro
        • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:49AM (#10200618) Journal
          No, it's called a lease agreement, with a change clause. Use the spectrum all you want, they are prohibiting a device, just like they can prohibit hotplates. If you don't like it, feel free to move out.

          State law trumps (and voids) any lease agreement terms that the state has prohibited. (Example: lease terms that prohibit having a visitor of a particular race.) Voiding the term does not void the rest of the lease.

          Federal laws and regulations trump state law, via the "supremacy clause" of the US constitution.

          Federal law gives the FCC the exclusive authority to regulate the use of the RF spectrum, and the FCC has used this authority to write regulations that explicitly permit anyone to use the unlicensed spectrum (AND mount antennas no larger than one meter) despite any lower-level law, regulation, or contract to the contrary (such as zoning laws or landowner covenants forbidding external antennas). Students in student housing are EXPLICITLY mentioned in the cited FCC memo clarifying the regulation.

          The FCC says the students can use the unlicensed spectrum. The FCC has the power to issue that regulation and override the university's Board of Regents on this issue. The Board of Regents or their agents can not penalize the students in any way for violating the voided regulation and exercising their privileges under the FCC ruling (because doing so would mean the regulation was not voided).

          The students win.
          • by Pedrito (94783) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @11:29AM (#10201207) Homepage
            Federal laws and regulations trump state law, via the "supremacy clause" of the US constitution.

            Normally, yes, but just as a university can ban alcohol on their premises, they can also ban the use of other items, on university property. It's their property, so they set the rules.

            Just as a store can disallow the use of cell phones, a university can say that you can't use certain wireless equipment on their property. You're not breaking a law by doing so, but you're breaking the "rules" of the institution and they're within their rights to remedy the situation if someone breaks the rules.

            This isn't a legal issue, so don't confuse it. This follows along with other "rules". Perhaps they have a rule that you have to attend a certain number of classes to pass. If you don't, you fail the class. That's rule, not law. There is no law that affects it. Just as there are no laws preventing them from using wireless equipment. Simply rules.
      • by Sc00ter (99550) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:24AM (#10200268) Homepage
        They can make it against the rules to smoke in your dorm room, yet that is a legal activity. Face it, you're on their property, it's their building, tough titties. You don't like it, move off campus or go to a different school.
      • by null etc. (524767) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @11:28AM (#10201195)
        There seems to be a common misconception that since 2.4GHz bands are unregulated, the FCC is the only entity that can restrict the usage of 2.4GHz devices. This, of course, is false.

        If you were to bring a wireless jamming device into a police station with the purpose of intentionally interfering with the department's administrative computers, you might get arrested for obstruction of justice.

        If you were to bring a wireless jamming device into your office with the purpose of disabling a corporate network, you might get reprimanded, fired, or sued.

        If you were to bring a wireless jamming device into a competitor's office with the intent of manipulating the company's stock price by disabling their computer network, you might be charged with securities fraud.

        If you sign an agreement with a college stating that your enrollment is contingent upon agreeing with campus policies designed to protect the college's network, then you can't use a wireless jamming device without repercussions. This is regardless of whether the "wireless jamming device" is a "wireless access point" that merely has the potential to jam.

        Of course, intention will play a role in any of the above scenarios. But the important thing here, people, is that you're not allowed to walk around wherever you want saying, "Who are you, you're not the FCC!"

        The FCC only handles circumstances in which two independent entities are in conflict over the usage of such airwaves when no federal or state law exists to regulate the legal behavior between two independent entities with respect to those airways.

        A college and an enrolled student are not considered "independent entities", as there exists an expectation to abide by the rules defined in the relationship between the college and the student. NOTE: this goes both ways - the student can sue the college if the college acts in ways that are contradictory to the expectations of the relationship. The college can't fail a student without reason and then say "Who are you, you're not the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, you can't regulate how I pass or fail you!"
        • There seems to be a common misconception that since 2.4GHz bands are unregulated, the FCC is the only entity that can restrict the usage of 2.4GHz devices. This, of course, is false.

          correct. however, the FCC _is_ the only entity that can restrict the usage of 2.4GHz devices that comply with part 15 of the FCC rules and are registered as such. you ever see the little notice on most RF devices about their compilance with part 15 of the FCC rules? it usually goes something like this:

          This device compl

    • by JamesD_UK (721413) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:27AM (#10200297) Homepage
      That's not the case. The FCC has exclusive rights to resolve matters such as these under the Communications Act of 1934, including those regarding unlicensed devices such as wifi. FCC's Over-the-Air Reception Devices [fcc.gov] rules (OTARD) specifically prohibit landlords, state and local governments and third parties from placing restrictions upon users of these unlicensed devices.
      • by ptbarnett (159784) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:37AM (#10200443)
        The FCC has exclusive rights to resolve matters such as these under the Communications Act of 1934, including those regarding unlicensed devices such as wifi. FCC's Over-the-Air Reception Devices rules (OTARD) specifically prohibit landlords, state and local governments and third parties from placing restrictions upon users of these unlicensed devices.

        Read it again. The cited act addresses services provided to the consumer/resident, not services provided by the consumer/resident.

        You might be able to parse it to apply to services provided by the resident, until you get to this:

        Q: If my association, building management, landlord, or property owner provides a central antenna, may I install an individual antenna?

        A: Generally, the availability of a central antenna may allow the association, landlord, property owner, or other management entity to restrict the installation by individuals of antennas otherwise protected by the rule. Restrictions based on the availability of a central antenna will generally be permissible provided that: (1) the person receives the particular video programming or fixed wireless service that the person desires and could receive with an individual antenna covered under the rule (e.g., the person would be entitled to receive service from a specific provider, not simply a provider selected by the association); (2) the signal quality of transmission to and from the person's home using the central antenna is as good as, or better than, than the quality the person could receive or transmit with an individual antenna covered by the rule; (3) the costs associated with the use of the central antenna are not greater than the costs of installation, maintenance and use of an individual antenna covered under the rule; and (4) the requirement to use the central antenna instead of an individual antenna does not unreasonably delay the viewer's ability to receive video programming or fixed wireless services.

        Since the problem is actually interference with that central antenna/service provided by the landlord, this provision would circumvent a tortured interpretation.

        • Read it again. The cited act addresses services provided to the consumer/resident, not services provided by the consumer/resident.

          There's an ammendment to the order updating it so that it applies to antennas designed for receiving and transmiting fixed wireless signals, not just TV services.
        • Since the problem is actually interference with that central antenna/service provided by the landlord, this provision would circumvent a tortured interpretation.

          Ah, but you yourself quoted that (1) the person receives the particular video programming or fixed wireless service that the person desires and could receive with an individual antenna covered under the rule (e.g., the person would be entitled to receive service from a specific provider, not simply a provider selected by the association)

          The wir
      • by jhoffoss (73895) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @01:27PM (#10202630) Journal
        Yes, but the University has a right to define its Terms of Service (ToS) for a student to use the University network. Port scanning may be legal, but that's probably against their ToS too. And if they want to require all cat5 cables on their network be purple, well, they can probably do that too.

        Well, maybe not purple...

    • I, for one, used to live oncampus, and got tired of dealing with the apartment complex. The problem is that the buildings are owned (some of them) by the university, but leased out to the complex, Waterview Park Apartments. I'm looking at my old copy of my lease, and it says "This lease contract is between you, the resident ____________ and us, the owner: Waterview Park". I know that many of us had problems with the apartment complex and took them to the University. However, the university's take on it is
  • Not a bad time.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mattdev121 (727783) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:20AM (#10200204) Homepage
    Looks like it's not a bad time to consider putting up some of this: Anti Wi-Fi Wallpaper [slashdot.org]
  • by jbltk (801038)
    The college has a perfect right to restrict the use of those devices on their property. Perhaps the submitter/editor doesn't understand that you can tell people what to do on your property. You don't have a fundamental right to install a Wifi router wherever you see fit.
    • by mr_z_beeblebrox (591077) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:33AM (#10200380) Journal
      When you rent your property out you give up a subset of those rights. The students do not live in a dorm as 'invited guests'. They are paying tenants and as such have rights.

      According to the FCC you do have a fundamental right to install WiFi routers wherever you see fit. There was a link to that specific bit of info cleverly hidden in plain view in the article.
  • by Laivincolmo (778355) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:21AM (#10200213)
    At Georgia Tech, wireless access points are already banned from rooms. You can usually find some though by war.. roaming down resident halls. The rooms aren't really big enough to need wireless anyway, though.
  • by nb caffeine (448698) <nbcaffeine@gmaCHEETAHil.com minus cat> on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:21AM (#10200219) Homepage Journal
    My school did the same thing. Luckily i worked part time in IT, and the network guys knew that I knew how to lock down my wifi router, so they didnt bitch about mine. Now they even have a kid with a PDA go down the halls of the dorms and "war-walk". Luckily, they say they "dont support wifi" and that "you are responsible for everything on your connection" etc, etc, so they are more friendly than the school in the article.
  • Students can use the university's access points. If they set up their own they would interfere with the network that the university has setup. The university should have the right to protect their network infrastructure on campus.
  • by Danathar (267989) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:23AM (#10200240) Journal
    Big deal...

    Go buy an 802.11a access point...and operate at 5Ghz

    Sure....it costs more and has less range but it should be adequate.
    • by Fishstick (150821) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:53AM (#10200687) Journal
      good idea -- they thought of it too...

      No 802.11b or 802.11g wireless access points may be installed within the Waterview Apartments by residents. Only 802.11a wireless access points will be allowed and those must be set only to the specific channels provided for that purpose (see list below). In other words, no access points using the 2.4GHz band may be used and only certain frequencies in the 5GHz spectrum.

      In fact...

      The UTD Technology Store (BK1.3 or extension 6500) is working to offer 802.11a wireless access points to use in place of the 802.11b/g. The possibility even exists that they may offer a discount of some sort for newer 802.11b/g access points that are traded in on an 802.11a.
  • by Temkin (112574) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:23AM (#10200241)


    Part 15 devices are REQUIRED to accept all interference from other devices. The FCC will spank them just to protect their turf, and that will be the end of that.

  • by derkaas (654904) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:23AM (#10200242)
    Unofficial access points are prohibited at Georgia Tech too (Wireless Policy [gatech.edu]). From a security standpoint, it makes perfect sense.
  • Article Text (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:23AM (#10200247)
    Some students in Waterview have been experiencing problems when trying to connect to the UTD Wireless Network. The reason has been found to be the result of over 100 wireless access points being set up by residents. These access points are connecting to Comcast Cable Modems or to SBC DSL (or other providers) for their Internet access and then are being shared out to other residents within the same or adjacent suites.
    The problem this creates is interference or an actual denial of service to other students not wishing to utilize these "unknown" access points, as the wireless network cards attempt to connect to the nearest and strongest signal available - which is often the "unknown" access points. Locking down the access points does not help this problem, but actually makes it even worse.

    A letter has been sent to Waterview Apartment residents describing the situation in some detail and advising them that no wireless access points other than university-installed ones will be allowed - with a specific exception.

    No 802.11b or 802.11g wireless access points may be installed within the Waterview Apartments by residents. Only 802.11a wireless access points will be allowed and those must be set only to the specific channels provided for that purpose (see list below). In other words, no access points using the 2.4GHz band may be used and only certain frequencies in the 5GHz spectrum.

    Another simple option is to use ethernet cabling to connect everyone in an apartment to the commercial broadband connection. This can be done using a cheap router and some ethernet cables, all readily available at the UTD Tech Store, Radio Shack, Microcenter, CompUSA or a multitude of other places.

    Connect the commercial modem (cable/DSL) to the router, then plug in the ethernet cables and connect them back to each computer in the apartment.

    NOTE: We do not recommend drilling holes in the walls. This will ultimately cost you more money!

    The UTD Technology Store (BK1.3 or extension 6500) is working to offer 802.11a wireless access points to use in place of the 802.11b/g. The possibility even exists that they may offer a discount of some sort for newer 802.11b/g access points that are traded in on an 802.11a.

    This is an unfortunate situation that has problems no matter what the resolution may be. But the free wireless service provided by the university in Waterview must take precedence over those few users who may choose to do something different.

    So if you are using a wireless access point (not a wireless card or adapter for your desktop), then you should immediately start considering your options. Sometime within the next few weeks, someone will be knocking on apartment doors to notify those with "unknown" access points that they will need to shut those devices off.

    We ask your patience and cooperation during this period and we are working to be sure that both Comcast, SBC and other providers do not recommend using a wireless access point.

    802.11a Available Channels:

    There are 12 channels available defined by the 802.11a standard in the 5GHz range. The four (4) lowest channels and the two (2) highest channels are available for students to use with their own access points.
    Lower U-NII band (5.15-5.25GHz): 36, 40, 44, 48
    Middle U-NII band (5.25-5.35GHz):
    Upper U-NII band (5.725-5.825GHz): 157, 161
    (52, 56, 60, 64 - NOT AVAILABLE) (149, 153 - NOT AVAILABLE)
  • by Guspaz (556486) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:24AM (#10200262)
    The university is breaking the law by forbidding WiFi.

    The parent article/post points this out with this link:

    http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatc h/ DA-04-1844A1.pdf

    In other words, the FCC forbids ANYBODY from telling you that you're not allowed to use your WiFi (Or, as I read it, any other device with an antenna less than one foot in length).

    So, if we're not allowed to complain when somebody (UofT) breaks the law and denies us our (Well, Americans') rights, when ARE we allowed to complain?
    • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:47AM (#10200578)
      I would like to put a huge 2.4Ghz blaster outside your residence so you can not use any of your 2.4Ghz equipment...

      It is as simple as that - Ever been to a LARGE conference (1000+) that offers wireless ? Every time I have gone - it takes about 2 days for the networking people to shutdown all of the stupid idiots that have open wireless on their laptops so the network can stabalize.

      So what you are asking for is for the University to not be allowed to run a stable wireless network.

      This is one of the worst problems with the use of an unregulated band - anyone can push a signal there, making interference the norm. Of course if it was regulated, none of us could use the spectrum, and it would be useless.

      I think a happy medium is for the University to provide a wireless network, and then ask its users to not build a second network inside of it - to reduce interference. After all, how would you like it if I started broadcasting an encrypted wireless network in such a way that you couldn't use your wireless connection - or it always interfered and you could never get a clean signal ?

      • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @12:08PM (#10201668) Homepage Journal
        I would like to put a huge 2.4Ghz blaster outside your residence so you can not use any of your 2.4Ghz equipment...

        Jamming is illegal. In fact, using wireless network equipment at higher than stock power output is also illegal if the maker didn't certify it for the higher output. Running a non-stock antenna is illegal if the maker didn't get it certified with the gain for that type of antenna that you are using.

        This is one of the worst problems with the use of an unregulated band

        Unlicensed != unregulated. The band IS regulated, it is simply set aside to allow unlicenced use, as in you don't have to go in for certification and testing for the right to operate the equipment.
    • by mks113 (208282)
      So, if I take my wi-fi enabled laptop to the control room of a nuclear plant, and the signal causes a plant trip to due super-sensitive electronics used to measure signals in pico-amps, the plant has no right to prevent the same thing from happening again?

      Note that this is not an absurd situation. We have banned cell phones from the control room, and I've personally observed a handheld walkie talkie cause a trip.

      But it is hypothetical as I'm in Canada and the same laws don't apply.
  • by fname (199759) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:27AM (#10200295) Journal
    Well, clearly the University can't prevent the students from operating the wireless points just because they are the landlords. But can they do it as part of the student agreement? Can they do it in a housing contract? My questions are:

    1) Can a landlord restrict use of a technology by explicitly putting it in the contract? The answer may seem obvious, but keep in mind that anyone can put up a DirecTV dish in their apartment no matter what the landlord says. And if they were allowed to, would landlords start restricting the use of WiFi as part of their contract or demand payement for it? I think that's what the FCC is trying to avoid.

    2) Can the university bar the access points as a condition of being an enrolled student? If so, can they also ban other legal activities such as gambling, marching in protest or interracial dating? Not sure of the answer, but my guess is they can't.

    I'm inclined to believe that the U. is without recourse here, at least one an affected student gets a lawyer. If they wanted to control the spectrum, they should've used a licensed band instead. I expect the policy won't last long.
    • by chill (34294) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @11:30AM (#10201212) Journal
      Open and shut.

      The airwaves are held in the public trust and regulated by the FCC, and ONLY the FCC. No other body, including Universities, landlords or State Governments may tell you what you can and can't do with regard to public spectrum. There are execptions, the biggest being for safety. Note that the military probably is also exempt from this, though it is a tougher call.

      If a landlord put "can kill you anytime during this agreement", would it be legal? Hell, no! There are certain rights that can't be given up just because you sign a piece of paper.

      Arguments about landscaping, paint, hotplates or anything NOT REGULATED BY A GOVERNING BODY like the FCC are not relevant.

      No, the University could not legally bar you from using an AP as a condition of being enrolled. This is still an attempt to indirectly regulate the public use of airwaves, which is the sole purvue of the FCC. They might try, but it should be found illegal if challenged. (IANAL, I just play on one /.)

      Yes, the can ban other stuff not covered by reglating bodies.
    • The university may not be able to ban wireless devices outright -- however, they're probably well within their rights to say what can and cannot be connected on their network.
  • Um.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marthisdil (606679) <marthisdilNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:33AM (#10200371)
    While they have an understandable concern with ensuring the accessability of the school network, the rights of the students to use the unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum in the privacy of their own apartment are obviously being regulated by a body that is not the FCC.

    The comment above from the original poster seems to be a bit on the daft side. Sure, it's unlicensed. However, they are providing access to the school network. They aren't infringing on any rights of students by protecting their own network.

    If it were me, I'd have said "get rid of them, or you can pay our internal security guy $200/hr, with 2 hours minimum, plus cost of hardware, to come out and install our own wireless AP in your place"

    It's stupid, uninformed, biased crap like the original comment above that makes people look more, and more stupid as time goes by.
  • Oh FFS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:34AM (#10200391) Journal

    the rights of the students to use the unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum in the privacy of their own apartment are obviously being regulated by a body that is not the FCC.

    This whole story should be modded Score:-1, Overrated. A university apartment is *not* the student's property - it's *university* property and the university can impose regulations like this as they see fit. The FCC aren't going to care if a university prohibits the use of a non-University provided AP, there's no law stopping the University from forbidding the use of random APs brought in by students. If the student doesn't like the policy they are free to rent privately or go to another university. It's no different from a rule, say, forbidding students or staff from landing helicopters in the parking lot. That's not pre-empting the FAA which regulates airspace - it's simply the landowner (the university) imposing conditions of using their land.

    Many apartment complexes have rules like you can't change your car's oil in their parking lot. This is really no different - if you don't like the rule, rent an apartment where the rules don't forbid 802.11b. It's entirely reasonable for the university to restrict 802.11b access points being plugged into *their* network too from a security point of view (non-secured AP + wardriver = nice big hole through any firewall they have).
    • Re:Oh FFS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GoRK (10018)
      I jumped in here with the same attitude until I noticed someone who made reference to a ruling in a federal court specifically GRANTING the use of ISM band devices [computerworld.com] in situations where private, local, or other non-federal regulation exists (such as in a lease contract). While the dorms/apartments might be owned by the university, they can certainly not regulate the use of the devices unless it's plugged into their own network. So unless you plug it into a campus-provided ethernet outlet, they don't have any
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @10:34AM (#10200392) Homepage
    go and grab a copy of this [blackalchemy.to]

    and get you and a few friends to wander around campus with laptops running it.

    it will completely hose the wifi police trying to find accesspoints cince the program broadcast's thousands of fake AP's.

    great fun...
  • by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @11:27AM (#10201174) Homepage
    I absolutely agree with the university's decision. There's already a wireless network in place, and since it is overseen by the IT staff, I think it's safe to assume that somebody there has the responsibility of making the network secure and functional for all the students, staff, and faculty to use. Use that, for everybody's sake. Be neighborly.

    Setting up a wireless node implies that the node connects to the external network. That means it uses university bandwidth, and that means it falls under the university's computer use guidelines (here: http://www.utdallas.edu/ir/tcs/general/policy.htm [utdallas.edu]) One guideline is that "infrastructure modifications are to be performed only by authorized departments." Adding a wireless node counts as infrastructure. I assume that a student doesn't count as an authorized department. You lose. Sorry.

    If the node isn't on the LAN, perhaps that's a different story. But I'd hate to have to discover and figure out which ones were live and which ones were contained. It's a drain on resources, and a pain in the ass.

    If you're doing something that requires you to have your own network, go get an account with a service provider or use the facilities provided by the school. Going that far out of your way would seem to indicate that a rogue wireless node probably is not the right solution anyway.
  • Rabid dogs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bungeejumper (469270) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @11:56AM (#10201512)
    This post is probably going to get buried in the deluge of flames and arguments going on here, but I have to say it. I've recently noticed a trend in the Slashdot forums, rabid dog behaviour. Disgruntled people jumping in to attack whatever they feel is too restrictive. And its just not the forums, even the articles that our "esteemed editors" are approving seem to be of the same type - "Little fry vs big unyielding giant". It's not always wrong to enforce unyielding rules.
  • by Noksagt (69097) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @12:37PM (#10202041) Homepage
    Northwestern University disallows any students, faculty, or staff from using ANY device that will extend the network: no routers, hubs, switches are allowed: wireless or wired. You can have a single CAT-5 cable running from your access port to your choice of wired periperals. They expect you to pony up $150-230 for the installation of each access port, plus additional monthly fees for service. This is significant when ~3 grad students mush share one office with ONE port, not to mention the computer labs.

    They have a right and responsibility to maintain security and quality of the network, but I don't think micro-management is the solution for this, especially in academic environments. I could see the need for some corporate or government IT shops to ban the use of any outside machines from accessing their internal network, but Universities generally allow (or require) you to bring your own system(s). If we want to build a small cluser, we are supposed to either choose to have it disconnected from the network (inconvenient), or pony up what amounts to an additional 10% of equipment costs to have more ports provided.

    The win-win solution should be that the University chooses not to support people who use routers, etc. If one computer behind the access port is spreading a worm or distributing copyrighted material, the whole access port should go down.

    Fortunately, this rule is violated all the time, as I'm sure the UT rule will be violated. I'm glad that some choose to break it--during the peak of worm seasons, it has been the people who have a router with a built-in firewall that weren't infested.
  • by Chris Daniel (807289) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @12:51PM (#10202226) Homepage
    But could it be defended in a court of law if it ever got there? No. My university has the same same policy on wireless access points in residences [utulsa.edu]. I don't live in the residences, so I can't provide any personal experience on the matter, but I haven't heard anything about actual enforcement of this policy. The reason they do it (as stated in this article) is that it can interfere with the operation of the university's wireless network. I think they have the "policy" more to scare students out of installing APs than to actually prohibit it.
  • by crazyray (776321) * on Sunday September 12, 2004 @12:49AM (#10225001)
    If anyone is still following this stroy- the university backed down after eing told of the FCC rules.

    http://www.utdmercury.com/news/2004/09/07/News/Tru ce.Declared.In.Wireless.War-715827.shtml [utdmercury.com]

    UTD Information Resources officials said Sept. 10 they are reversing their previous decision to ban private wireless access points in Waterview Park after the discovery of an FCC ruling prohibiting such a move.

    In a Sept. 8 letter distributed throughout Waterview Park, UTD threatened disciplinary action against residents running personal wireless access points. The move was intended to solve connectivity issues, said Doug Jackson, director of information resources.

    However, a public notice dated June 24, 2004, from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) - which regulates all wireless signals in the United States - affirmed that consumers have the right to install and operate wireless access points.

    The access points allow private DSL or cable modem Internet connections to be shared among multiple people within range of the access point.

    The FCC notice also states, under the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC holds exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of radio frequency interference issues.

    "Based on what they (the FCC) say, I'm going to have to back away from the policy," said Bill Hargrove, executive director of information resources. He suspects the university could make an argument to support the decision, "but it's not worth the brouhaha."

    The initial policy sparked a firestorm among affected students on websites including waterviewsux.com, utdmercury.com and slashdot.org, a national online discussion forum of technical issues.

    Many students expressed anger over a portion of the distributed letter which speculated that users with private access points may be engaging "in activities ... such as peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted materials."

    "It infuriated me, to see it insinuating that we were all pirates for choosing to use our own Internet connection. It made my blood boil pretty quick," said senior electrical engineering major Trent Jacobs.

    Jacobs installed DSL in his Phase Two apartment several years ago before the wireless network existed and continues to use it so he can access his computer as a file server from off-campus, which cannot be done through the campus network. He also said he cannot access UTD's wireless network in some parts of his apartment.

    IR is working on various solutions to improve the connection and the access point policy was seen as one method to combat the troubles the system has had, Jackson said.

    "We went out and did some serious investigation and discovered a correlation between locations with multiple access points and the people with connectivity issues," Jackson said.

    Once the IR department asked users to turn off their access points, the problems went away, he said.

    Previously, only a few existed on campus but, "we went from a handful to hundreds this fall," Jackson said.

    The connectivity problem stems from the fact that, if not told to do otherwise, many wireless cards will automatically connect to the strongest signal available. In Waterview's case, a network card might jump onto a neighbor's stronger access point instead of the possibly weaker UTD wireless network. The network swap can cause a "denial of service" conflict and a failure to connect to the Internet, Jackson said.

    IR officials said they hoped shutting down personal access points would stop cards from arbitrarily swapping their signal source.

    Other universities including George Washington, Georgia Tech and UT Austin presently ban private wireless networks, although only in university-owned residences.

    Hargrove also took into account the fact UTD does not own all of the apartments.

    "It (Waterview) falls into a gra

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