Chris Andersen (2006) describes Wi-fi as the, “first blast in the revolution” that will usher in the internet in the open era. This prophecy is supported by rapid spread of Wi-fi in many areas which require use of internet by a large group of people. Thus schools, universities and homes are considered ideal to place hot spots for wire less transfer. However there is a lot of skepticism about the harmful effects of Wi-fi. This has placed many people including students, teachers and above all parents in a quandary.
The advantages of the internet for students are so wide spread, that a parent cannot think of depriving the child use of the World Wide Web for education as well as entertainment. Wi-fi provides the advantage of anywhere surfing. Thus with a lap top and a hot spot close by, the need for a wired internet connection does not exist. However the down sides of Wi-fi are becoming slowly evident as reported by Heald (2006). The concerns of parents who having perceived health related problems in children after being close to Wi-fi, do not want this technology in the future, what ever be the advantage, need to be addressed holistically.
The health hazards faced by persons denoted in the report are no doubt genuine; however the cause for the same is not as clear. (Heald, 2006). There is limited scientific evidence to prove that headaches and nausea or skin rashes are actually caused by exposure to electro magnetic radiation generated by Wi-fi. The key issue therefore is should there be a ban on Wi-fi because there is inadequate empirical evidence to prove that some health hazards are directly related to it.
Well Wi-fi enthusiasts and technology companies do not feel so, while people who have suffered the ill effects of Wi-fi as highlighted by Heald (2006) do not want it any where near their homes where children in particular could come to harm. The IT background of the issue The advantages of Wi-fi technology are many. These are only now being exploited after use by technology experts for some years in the past. (Andersen, 2006). For the masses, Wi-fi provides a cheap mode of connecting to the World Wide Web with great flexibility without the encumbrance of a wire hanging down the roof top.
The greater impact of Wi-Fi is the ability to work in the narrow frequency spectrum that is available for consumer use which is already getting restricted with the high density of requirements for downloading of audio and video content. The internet protocol IEEE 802. 11b resulted in high quality wireless fidelity which is thus popularly termed as Wi-fi. The technology family is Ethernet and provides broad bandwidth in the 2. 3 gigahertz frequency band. In concert with other technologies as the GSM/GPRS as well as UMTS, Wi-fi can provide wide coverage including, in city blocks which are otherwise susceptible to radio screening.
As no wires are required to be laid there is considerable saving. Thus Wi-fi has reduced the cost of providing connectivity. Providing Wi-fi connectivity is so cheap that hot spots can be established at very low cost in an entire university campus, city park and even apartment blocks. This is giving rise to shared public networks. The impact of the issue The technological impact of the spread of Wi-fi is significant. A network connected by hot spots at public places is the preferred mode of spreading the internet in many parts of the World today particularly in the West.
The utility of this for commerce is extensive. Thus many companies have armed their sales force with PDAs and lap tops and are able to connect them with the parent through a Wi-fi network. The benefits in the field of education are also enormous with entire college campuses being connected through Wi-fi. Students can be seen taking notes on laptops and directly sharing with their colleagues, researching term papers in college parks, surfing, chatting and emailing while on the move or in coffee shops all due to the ubiquity provided by Wi-fi.
(Bangeman, 2006). This flexibility makes Wi-fi a technology for the future which would not just link people with information but also connect devices at home. However occurrence of a large number of health related complaints has led some institutions as the Lakehead University Ontario banning Wi-fi on the campus. (Bangeman, 2006). Fred Gilbert, the President of the University has sited a California Public Utilities Commission study which states that there is a possibility of tumors due to exposure to electro magnetic fields which needs further exploration.
Lakehead University is not an exception in banning Wi-fi on campus. There are many schools in the United Kingdom such as Buckinghamshire public school, Ysgol Pantycelyn and Prebendal School which had Wi-fi removed or restricted after there were complaints from parents or students falling ill presumably due to the effects of the technology. (Bale, 2006). A solution to a problem arising from the issue A world without internet is unthinkable, so is one without Wi-fi in the future. As the technology has been rolled out, solutions are bound to emerge that will overcome the endemic health hazards.
Thus preventing installation of Wi-fi will not stop people from using it and hence cannot be the answer. As also in the case of Wi-fi as with other EMF (electro magnetic field) technologies evidence on the harm that can be caused is so far limited. There are a number of studies which have been undertaken on EMF including by the World Health Organization. (WHO). The WHO International EMF Project was established in 1996 to evaluate the health effects due to electro magnetic radiation emanating between the bands 0 to 300 GHz.
This study when completed will provide some pointers to the link between Wi-fi and illness reported due to its proximity. (Electromagnetic fields, Nd (No Date). Another important report published so far is by the Government of California. The report does bring out some risks emanating from EMF radiation but seeks further study. (California, 2002). Most health professionals agree that the evidence that Wi-fi can cause health damage is not substantial but advise caution.
The answer lies in lowering the threshold of exposure to Wi-fi and completing the present research on the subject by agencies as the WHO speedily.
Sources 1. Andersen, Chris. (2003). The Wi-Fi Revolution: The wireless Internet has arrived — and now the sky’s the limit. Accessed at http://www. wired. com/wired/archive/11. 05/unwired/wifirevolution. html on 28 January 2007. 2. Bale, Joanna. (2006).
Health fears lead schools to dismantle wireless networks. . Accessed at http://technology. timesonline. co. uk/article/0,,19509-2461748,00.html on 28 January 2007. 3. Bangeman, Eric. (2006). Canadian university says no to Wi-Fi over health concerns. . Accessed at http://arstechnica. com/news. ars/post/20060222-6235. html on 28 January 2007. 4. California. (2002). California EMF risk evaluation for policymakers and the public. . Accessed at http://www. who. int/peh-emf/en/ on 28 January 2007. 5. Electromagnetic fields. (Nd). . Accessed at http://www. who. int/peh-emf/en/ on 28 January 2007. 6. Heald, Clare. (2006). Wi-fi Worry. BBC News magazine. www. bbc. co. uk.