FHC Wireless Internet
- Just an update for anyone who may be interested as to real-world experiences with wireless Internet
open to patrons in the FHC:
We do not use wireless connections for our ten workstations, but thought long and hard about opening
a wireless access point for patron use. A year ago we decided to try it and see what happened.
Before anyone replies that we can't do that, the 2006 "Policy and Guidelines for Computers in Family
History Centers" are explicit that this is a local decision.
Our setup has the access point behind the Church's Cisco PIX firewall but separate from the rest of
our network. There is no possibility that anyone using a wireless connection could access anything
on the network apart from The Internet.
In our case, physical logistics work in our favor. We are located in a steel frame and concrete
building, which significantly impedes the wireless signal outside the FHC. The building is
surrounded with a large parking area and grounds, so the nearest neighbors are a very long way away.
We purposely acquired an access point that was not designed for long-range use. The result is that
the signal is barely usable inside the building in the area immediately surrounding the FHC and not
usable at all outside.
We do not protect the connection with any sort of password scheme, as we didn't want the burden of
changing it frequently or trying to support the inevitable setup problems that would result with
patron equipment. We have had no issues with improper use observed inside the building (it would be
physically very difficult) and outside the building is not an issue.
The connection used regularly, if not widely, inside the FHC. It is not uncommon to see patrons
pondering over microfilm readers with laptops used to compare various online sources at the same
time. We don't advertise that we have a wireless connection available, but if patrons ask we tell
them we do. Patrons also observe other patrons using the connection.
In summary, our experience has shown the experiment to be beneficial to patrons and our research
objectives, and one which created negligible administrative and usage issues. Needless to say, there
are any number of reasons why our approach and setup would not be appropriate for everyone.
All the best,
McLean Virginia FHC