Wireless routers prohibited in dorms

Kristyn Soltis

Many students still risk getting caught

Two weeks ago, Andrew, a Kent State student, went to turn his computer on and found the Internet was down.

He wonders if it was pure coincidence that he lost Internet connection when he uses a prohibited router to create wireless access in his residence hall room.

“It’s just so much more convenient than having to be plugged in all the time,” said Andrew, whose last name and residence has been withheld to protect his privacy.

Wireless network routers are not permitted in the residence halls on campus. If problematic router activity is discovered in a room, the port will immediately be disabled, preventing access to the Internet.

Andrew never called ResNet to find out if his router was the reason for the Internet failure.

“I don’t know because I didn’t want to jump right in and accuse myself right away,” Andrew said. “I wanted them to accuse me first.”

The Daily Kent Stater requested interviews with Wendy Shih, manager of Information Technology, and Philip Thomas, network design engineer. Information Technology staff met to discuss their policy before responding to Daily Kent Stater questions with prepared statements.

In the statements, they said the use of routers has the potential not only to interfere with the university’s current wireless network but also interfere with cordless phones and a building’s network connections. This means if a student is using a router, it could prohibit other students from successfully connecting to the network.

Thomas said a router signal typically reaches several rooms at the least. Depending on the router type, antenna type and signal strength, it is possible it could reach the entire floor or building, depending on the building size.

On average, prohibited routers are found in campus residence hall rooms several times each week.

Information Technology staff said the problem is prevalent mostly at the beginning of each school year.

Routers are discovered through network monitoring. If a router is discovered, the connection is blocked, and the user no longer has access to the network until it can be verified that the router has been removed.

“First, the network connection would be blocked,” Thomas said. “And we do make an effort to notify the student, if possible. However, sometimes we can only identify the port and room in which the router is used, but not necessarily the specific student involved.”

Thomas said students may plug their router back in after Internet connection is restored, but the router would likely be discovered again.

Andrew waited for a warning from ResNet informing him that his Internet was taken away for router usage, but the warning never came.

“If they warned me, I would definitely say I’m not doing it again,” he said. “I’m not going to use someone else’s port and go around the room until every port is used and hope (I don’t get caught) by the time the year is over.”

Andrew was also hesitant to call ResNet because he wondered if someone in a room nearby caught his wireless signal and was doing “bad things” with his connection, like pirating music.

For example, if another student connects to Andrew’s wireless Internet connection and downloads music illegally, Andrew is liable.

“I didn’t know whether to be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this thing and have (ResNet) be like, ‘Oh, look at all this illegal stuff you’ve downloaded. It’s still your fault,'” he said.

He said he hasn’t added a password to his router connection because of the inconvenience it would create.

“And I have faith in people,” he said. “I don’t know why. By now I should know better.”

Andrew said it all worked out for him in the end because the Internet returned and he continues to use his router.

“In my own mind, I’m not doing anything illegal by creating an access point,” Andrew said. “It’s the same thing they’re doing in all the other dorms, but it’s just not their certified ‘whatever.’ I’m just trying to get into the wall through the air.”

Contact technology reporter Kristyn Soltis at [email protected]