Information Technologies Insfrastructure

Wireless Communications Policy1

January 26, 2004

IBM Think Pad


This section sets forth the policies for using wireless technologies and assigns responsibilities for the deployment of wireless services and the administration of the wireless radio spectrum. This policy describes how wireless technologies are to be deployed, administered and supported at Rensselaer. It refines and expands the existing policies by adding specific content addressing wireless communications and the resolution of interference issues that might arise during use of specific frequencies. The policy couples the desire for campus constituencies to deploy wireless technologies with a central administrative desire to assure that all constituents be assured of deploying such systems with an acceptable level of service quality and security.

Wireless Ethernet systems and interface cards will be deployed at Rensselaer to support research, administrative and academic applications. This policy guides such deployments.

Policies and guidelines for deployment of these systems are essential to:

  1. Prevent interference between different departmental implementations and other uses of the wireless spectrum
  2. Safeguard security of campus network systems
  3. Ensure that a baseline level of connection service quality is provided to a diverse user community

This policy defines the levels of service that the campus community should assume to be part of the campus wireless infrastructure.

Scope of the Policy

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is responsible for providing a secure and reliable campus network to support the mission of the University. Under this broad responsibility the Division of the Chief Information Officer (DotCIO) must foster campus-wide network standards (wired and wireless) to meet the networking requirements of all campus constituencies and limit access to network connections which do not conform to generally accepted standard network protocols and security measures. Electronic communications is changing rapidly both in terms of technology and application and additional policy questions will surely arise in this area. This policy, other relevant Rensselaer and system policies, and all applicable laws govern use of electronic communications resources.

Scope of Service: This policy defines the levels of service that the campus community should assume to be part of the campus wireless infrastructure. It defines the roles of the campus units and DotCIO for deploying and administering the wireless infrastructure for the campus.

Network Reliability: In a wireless environment, network reliability is a function both of the level of user congestion (traffic loads) and service availability (interference and coverage). In efforts to provide an acceptable level of reliability; this policy establishes a method for resolving conflicts that may arise from the use of the wireless spectrum. The campus approaches the shared use of the wireless radio frequencies in the same way that it manages the shared use of the wired network. While DotCIO does not actively monitor use of the airspace for potential interfering devices, we will respond to reports of specific devices that are suspected of causing interference and disrupting the campus network. Where interference between the campus network and other devices cannot be resolved; DotCIO reserves the right to restrict the use of all wireless devices in university-owned buildings and all outdoor spaces.

Security: The maintenance of the security and integrity of the campus network requires adequate means of ensuring that only authorized users are able to use the network. Wireless devices utilizing the campus wired infrastructure must follow existing standards to insure only authorized and authenticated users connect to the campus network. Institutional data used by campus users and systems must not be exposed to unauthorized viewers.

Support: This policy defines the responsibilities of campus units and the centralized support organization for the planning, deployment, management and development of wireless network equipment and services. The policy describes the responsibilities and role of DotCIO for ensuring overall integrity of the campus network. Policy statements herein generally provide for DotCIO to support the public accessible wireless environments on campus.


Access Point: An access point is a piece of wireless communications hardware, which creates a central point of wireless connectivity. Similar to a the access point is a common connection point for devices in a wireless network. Access points can be used to connect segments of a LAN, using transmit and receive antennas instead of ports for access by multiple users of the wireless network. Similar to standard wiredm, access points are shared bandwidth devices and can be connected to the wired network, allowing wireless access to the campus network.

Baseline Level of Connection Service Quality: The baseline level of connection service quality is determined by factors that can affect radio transmissions, such as distance from the access point, number of users sharing the bandwidth, state of the environment from which the transmission is taking place, and the presence of other devices that can cause interference.

Coverage: Coverage is the geographical area where a baseline level of wireless connection service quality is attainable.

Interference: Interference is the degradation of a wireless communication signal caused by electromagnetic radiation from another source. Such interference can either slow down a wireless transmission or completely eliminate it depending on the strength of the signal.

Privacy: Privacy is the condition that is achieved when successfully maintaining the confidentiality of personal, student and/or employee information transmitted over a wireless network.

Security: Security, as used in this policy, not only includes measures to protect electronic communication resources from unauthorized access, but also includes the preservation of resource availability and integrity.

Wireless Infrastructure: Wireless infrastructure refers to wireless access points, antennas, cabling, power, and network hardware associated with the deployment of a wireless communications network.


Responsibility for Wireless Access Points: Campus responsibility for electronic communication resources resides with the DotCIO. DotCIO must approve all installations of wireless access points used on the campus.

  1. Wireless equipment and users must follow general communications policies. Wireless services are subject to the same rules and policies that govern other electronic communications services at Rensselaer.
  2. Abuse or interference with other activities is a violation of acceptable use. Interference or disruption of other authorized communications or unauthorized interception of other traffic is a violation of policy.
  3. Radio communication, due to its dependence on a scarce and shared resource, is subject to additional rules concerning interference and shared use.
    1. Wireless access points must meet all applicable rules of regulatory agencies, such as, the:
      1. Federal Communications Commission
      2. Public Utilities Commission
    2. Wireless access points must be installed so as to minimize interference with other RF activities particularly as described below.
  4. Only hardware and software approved by DotCIO shall be used for wireless access points.
  5. Deployment and management of wireless access points in common areas of the campus is the responsibility of DotCIO. Common areas of the campus include, but are not limited to,
    1. Public access area and general conference room areas
    2. Open seating areas where members of the community may sit and work
    3. Cafes
    4. Lounges
    5. Lecture halls and classrooms
    6. Outside space where people meet/gather/study
  6. Installation of Access Points
    1. Installation of antennas must comply with all federal and state regulations for antennas
    2. The installation of access points and bridging devices must be consistent with health, building, and fire codes
    3. Access points will be installed by DotCIO

Security: General access to the network infrastructure, including wireless infrastructure, will be limited to individuals authorized by DotCIO. Users of campus and Internet wireless resources shall be authenticated. Exhibit A contains further information on security for the wireless network.

Physical security of wireless access points will be maintained to protect the access point from theft or access to the data port.

Interference: Wireless networking equipment is an inexpensive shared medium technology that uses the unlicensed frequency bands to create small local area network cells. These cells can be further linked together over an underlying wired network to create an extended wireless network covering whole buildings or wider areas. The success of any wide deployment wireless networking requires that all equipment that operate in the frequency spectrum to be carefully installed and configured to avoid physical and logical interference between components of different network segments and other equipment.

  1. In the event that a wireless device interferes with other equipment, DotCIO shall resolve the interference in a manner consistent with existing policy and campus priorities.
  2. The order of priority for resolving unregulated frequency spectrum use conflicts shall be according to the following priority list:
    1. Research
    2. Instruction
    3. Administration
    4. Public Access
    5. Personal

Suitability: Wireless networks are not a substitute for wired network connections. Wireless should be viewed as an augmentation to the wired network to extend the network for general access to common and transient areas.

  1. Wireless is appropriate for common areas where students, staff, and faculty gather. Common areas most appropriate for wireless use include but are not limited to, instructional labs, public areas, and research labs.
  2. Due to bandwidth limitations, wireless networking is most applicable for uses such as email and web browsing.
  3. Wireless access points provide a shared bandwidth. As the number of users increase the available bandwidth per user diminishes.
  4. New plans for buildings and gathering areas should consider the need for and use of wireless networking, similar to the planning done currently for wired networking.
  5. Use of peer-to-peer file sharing applications on the wireless network is inappropriate due to the limitations of a shared bandwidth. Therefore peer-to-peer applications are not to be invoked.



  1. Responsible for creating/maintaining/updating wireless communications policy and wireless security standards.
  2. Responsible for maintaining a registration of all wireless networks and access points on campus.
  3. Responsible for resolving wireless communication interference problems.
  4. Responsible for managing and deploying wireless communications systems.
  5. Responsible for creating/maintaining/updating wireless communication network security policies.
  6. Responsible for informing wireless users of security and privacy policies and procedures related to the use of wireless communications.
  7. Responsible for monitoring the development of wireless network technologies, evaluating wireless network technology enhancements and, as appropriate, incorporating new wireless network technologies within the Rensselaer network infrastructure.

Campus Units are responsible for informing wireless users of security and privacy policies and procedures related to the use of wireless communications.

Exhibit A

Draft Wireless Security Standards


The use of wireless network technology must not reduce the availability, integrity and confidentiality of critical and essential applications and/or the Rensselaer computing network.


Access to wireless network connectivity will be limited to authenticated users and authorized wireless client devices. Authentication will performed using RCS sign on identification. RCS accounts are issued for individual use and are not to be shared.

Security Awareness

While wireless traffic is encrypted as it travels from point to point within the boundaries of the campus network, wireless users should know that when traffic leaves campus it is no longer encrypted by the wireless application.

Monitoring and Reporting

The wireless network will be monitored from time-to-time for performance and load balancing.


1Heavily adapted from and with the permission of University of California at Davis

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