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Students Protest After APS Disables Wi-Fi For Student-Owned Devices

Apple Macbook Air laptopA temporary change in Arlington Public Schools’ Wi-Fi policy has some students steamed.

APS says it has disabled wireless internet access for student-owned devices during school hours, due to excessive web traffic on APS’ network — mostly from smartphones.

“Over the past two years APS has seen a massive increase in the use of mobile technologies,” said Linda Erdos, Assistant Superintendent for School and Community Relations. “Staff and students at some schools are increasingly wanting to connect personal cell phones or other mobile devices to the APS Wi-Fi network. As a result, there have been periods where the demand for access to the network has exceeded the APS capacity, resulting in slow internet performance for all users, particularly for classroom use.”

“To restore network integrity, APS has temporarily removed Wi-Fi access for the lowest priority devices, preventing student-owned devices from connecting to the APS wireless network between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.,” Erdos continued. Students tell us the new policy has been in place for nearly a month.

APS is in the “final stages” of a procurement process that will build more bandwidth into the APS network, Erdos said. When that added bandwidth is in place — APS is hoping the work is complete by December — student-owned phones and other devices will be allowed back on the network.

“It has been decided that we will allow student-owned devices back on the network once the increased capacity is in place and we have tested it to ensure there are no problems,” said Erdos. “I just can’t give an exact date.”

Students, meanwhile, are none too pleased with the lack of internet access. Cell phone service is spotty within schools, students say, and those without school-issued laptops and tablets — which are still allowed on the network — say they need internet access to complete school work at a time when APS is emphasizing technology in classrooms and removing computer labs.

Diana, a Yorktown High School student, wrote the following to explain that internet access is now an educational need, not just a means to slacking off in class.

Technology is seen as a very important part of curriculums and education in APS, which is why students should access to Wi-Fi.

Many places in Yorktown do not even have service so using cellular data is not always an option if students have to use their phones to do schoolwork, which as a senior I frequently have to do. Students can no longer log into Wi-Fi with personal laptops but students who are freshman and sophomores still can log in through their MacBooks since they are APS issued. This puts juniors and seniors at a disadvantage.

Google Docs is widely used at Yorktown and at APS and I use for typing up many notes and papers including for my independent study. Not having access to the Wi-Fi to be able to use Google Docs or just the Wi-Fi in general for my independent study can hinder my success in the class.

Yorktown did have two computer labs with laptops but those laptops were taken away and now those two places are just empty classrooms. Junior and Senior teachers are limited to just computers at the library to bring their class to or request a computer cart. These teachers can no longer tell students to pull out their phones to do something since they just don’t have the access to do so with no Wi-Fi while the underclassmen just use their MacBooks and don’t have to worry about a reliable internet connection.

On Twitter, other students were less reserved with their assessment of the situation, offering comments like:

  • “@APSVirginia @YorktownHS I’m dropping out of school if the wifi doesn’t get fixed”
  • “Turn on the f-cking wifi @APSVirginia”
  • “@APSVirginia has enough money to give thousands of MacBooks to freshmen and sophomores but can’t give the rest of us wifi?”
  • “@APSVirginia GIVE US BACK OUR WIFI THIS IS NOT NORTH KOREA”

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