Back in 1993 Carnegie Mellon University built the first campus-wide wireless Internet network, called Wireless Andrew at its Pittsburgh campus. In 2006 Lakehead University virtually banned Wi-Fi from its campuses in Thunder Bay, Ont., and Orillia, Ont. Last month parents and children from Grades one to five joined a picket line outside the York Region District School Board offices in Aurora to protest the use of WiFi in classrooms. |
Wireless networking, also called WiFi or 802.11 networking, WiFi, is short for "Wireless Fidelity. When a product is built with WiFi it means the product has been certified by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, and it means a device will allow wireless access to the Internet or a private network within a certain limited geographic range. WiFi uses radio waves for connection over distances up to around 91 metres, usually in a local area network (LAN) environment. Spectrum assignments and operational limitations are not consistent worldwide: most of Europe allows for an additional two channels beyond those permitted in North America for the 2.4 GHz band (1–13 vs. 1–11), while Japan has one more on top of that (1–14).
The Wifi debate has picked up a lot of press over the past year. Within the Simcoe County school board school administrators have decided not to turn off wireless internet in classrooms despite complaints from parents who suspect their children are being made ill by WiFi.
"Symptoms, including memory loss, trouble concentrating, skin rashes, hyperactivity, night sweats and insomnia have been reported in 14 Ontario schools in Barrie, Bradford, Collingwood, Orillia and Wasaga Beach since the board decided to go wireless."
-Rodney Palmer of the Simcoe County Safe School Committee.
Other schools like Pretty River Academy, a private kindergarten to Grade 12 school with approximately 150 students located north of Toronto in Collingwood, have switched to a hard-wire Internet system due to potential health concerns associated with Wifi.
Health Canada insists WiFi is not a big cause for concern. Health Canada spokesman Gary Holub said in an email that WiFi exposure levels in Canada are well below science-based exposure limits and that there is no evidence showing weak radio-frequency electromagnetic energy from WiFi can cause illness. In the past The World Health Organization has said that WiFi networks do not pose a health risk, however, in May, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified radio frequency emitted by wireless devices as possibly carcinogenic. There is a debate in the scientific community about whether radiation from wireless communications could pose health risks. Some studies suggest WiFi may cause neurological and cardiac symptoms, but other researchers insist the concerns are unfounded.
Susan Clarke, a former research consultant to the Harvard School of Public Health, said WiFi technology alters fundamental physiological functioning and can cause neurological and cardiac symptoms. Henry Lai, professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, says he believes there is good reason to be concerned over the health implications presented by WiFi technology. Students are exposed to radiation from wireless networks for hours on end while in classrooms.