Wireless Expanding at George Mason

Posted: December 23, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

With the imminent finalization of a new policy on wireless networking on George Mason campuses, the university is expecting an explosion of this new technology, according to Information Technology Unit (ITU) staff. At a recent town hall meeting, members of the ITU staff presented the policy for discussion and outlined procedures for units to employ wireless networking.

Currently, the only areas with officially sanctioned public access points for wireless networking at George Mason are in the Johnson Center and certain locations in Innovation Hall. The technology allows users who have wireless LAN cards in their computers to connect to the Internet without physically plugging into a connection. Access on campus is restricted to faculty, staff, and students who have MEMO accounts, since a MEMO username and password are required. Special access for a one-time use, such as a conference, can also be arranged through the ITU staff.

Because of the expense of setting up access points and security gateways, individual units are being asked to help provide funding if they want ITU-supported wireless networking in their building, says Derek Kan, manager of advanced network technologies. The cost will vary according to the number of access points and amount of hardwiring required. ITU is already working with the School of Law on the Arlington Campus to provide wireless access points throughout its building, he says.

Units can set up their own wireless systems if they follow the policy and register with ITU, as long as they restrict access to small groups of users and follow basic security guidelines.

The biggest issue with regard to wireless is security, explains Cathy Hubbs, IT security coordinator. The new policy addresses this at some length and specifies that ITU may disconnect wireless users if security is being compromised. Interference from other devices that use unlicensed frequency bands, such as cordless telephones, wireless audio speakers, and even microwave ovens, is also covered in the policy.

Robert Nakles, director of the ITU Project Management Office, will accept comments on the policy through Jan. 7, 2004. E-mail him at rnakles@gmu.edu. To see the current draft policy, click here.

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