Open letter: University iPad ban; Catch up, simple as

Summary:An angry open letter to three major US universities who banned or blocked student iPad users from accessing their wireless networks,

Dear Cornell, George Washington and Princeton,

You're idiots. I toyed with this first line for a good twenty minutes before sticking to my guns and calling you as such. As the resident student blogger, you should have known that this would have ruffled my feathers, to the point it's taken me an entire day to muster up enough raw emotion to write this letter.

The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that your student iPad users are essentially being banned from accessing your institution's network citing 'network stability issues' and 'bandwidth overload'. Though I can see the logic behind this, especially in light with the iPad wireless networking issues that were reported just after launch, I sincerely believe that the problems lie with you.

George Washington University students cannot even access the wireless network you have in place because either your network doesn't support the wireless security protocols or the iPad doesn't. If every other device can access the network securely, what makes the iPad so different? Authentication should not be discriminatory based on brand, product or operating system.

Princeton have actively blocked iPad users from accessing the network due to "high risk problems". I can understand this one to some extent because the DHCP system couldn't cope with a flaw with the iPad's IP configuration software. This is granted. Apple does indeed have some issues with this and Princeton has to "maintain the stability and reliability of campus network services". Then again, only 20% of these iPad users have had their network access blocked, suggesting that not all iPad's have this flaw or perhaps a wider back-end infrastructure issue not playing ball.

Steve Shuster, Cornell's IT director, told the Wall Street Journal that the iPhone caused bandwidth issues when it first came on the scene. Like what, using some form of device which allows students to access the web, media, social networking sites and YouTube? So what makes it so different from say, a Windows machine which allows you to install torrent software to illegally download files which is far more detrimental in the long run?

Frankly, if you use your iPhone or iPad to access your email, Facebook or student data system through the wireless network instead of an ordinary laptop, wouldn't this balance out the network load to some extent? I'm sure Apple products don't inherently churn up unnecessary amounts of wireless bandwidth just to deliberately play havoc with the networks. (If so, nice evil plan there, Apple).

I will admit, I am not the greatest fan of Apple products and frankly they grate at me for being 'high class' and socially snobbish. Nevertheless, students will buy the iPad - going against my personal advice - and will want to use it on campus.

But your three universities - and you won't be the only ones out there - have probably caused these issues yourselves. Your three universities are part of the best educational institutions in the world yet did nobody flag up the potential issues faced by a new technology on the market? Surely somebody on your campus would have put in a word to the IT departments and mentioned this potential uprising of iPad using students?

Take Seton Hill University, a fine example. Whether you see it as a bribe or an offer of a lifetime semester, either way new students will be getting a brand new shiny iPad. Their network infrastructure clearly works well enough to bring on thousands of these devices for their new students. Yet on the flip side since first writing about it, students will be faced with an additional $500 per semester "technology fee" to pay for expansions in bandwidth capabilities.

Yes, I am aware that the global financial crisis has caused many universities and educational institutions into a difficult situation. Some universities are close to collapse and are struggling to pay their own staff let alone consider adopting faster, more efficient infrastructures to keep in line with trending technologies. Yet these are rare instances and the product return to student tuition fee ratio is way off in most cases.

I implore you to look at the services you are providing, not to mention the negative press attention you are getting by actioning these decisions, and re-evaluate your respective positions to ensure that you are giving the student - the consumer, at the end of the day - the best value for their money.

Much love, (it's nothing personal, I promise),

Zack x

Topics: iPad, Apple, iPhone, Mobility, Networking

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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