Canadian Uni hot under the collar over Wi-Fi safety

Tin-foil hats all round

A Canadian university has limited Wi-Fi networks on campus, not out of information security concerns, but because the long-term safety of the technology is "unproven".

Fred Gilbert, president of Canada's Lakehead University, made the order on the basis of possible health risk from the technology, especially to young people. Inconclusive studies into possible links between radio transmissions and leukemia and brain tumors from, among others, scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, led Gilbert to make the "precautionary ban".

"All I’m saying is while the jury’s out on this one, I’m not going to put in place what is potential chronic exposure for our students. Admittedly that’s highest around the locations of the antenna sites and the wireless hot spots, but those are the places people tend to gravitate to because they get the best reception," Gilbert said, Canadian technology website IT Business reports.

The Ontario University makes limited use of WiFi only in areas where fibre-optics links can't reach. Gilbert says he want to see conclusive evidence that the technology is safe before he'll be prepared to approve its wider use.

Robert Bradley, director of consumer and clinical radiation protection at Health Canada, said documents due to be published this year should establish that WiFi networks operating at below current regulatory limits poses no risk to humans. But if the controversy about the possible health risks of mobile phones are anything to go by that's unlikely to reassure everyone.

Jorg-Rudiger Sack, a computer science professor at Carleton University, said that while wireless is useful in environments where people are not likely to be working in fixed locations (such as airport departure lounges) its benefits in campus environments are far more tenuous. ®

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