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Lakehead University Magazine Spring/Summer 2008

Lakehead Says No to WiFi

Lakehead University takes a precautionary approach to the widespread application of WiFi technology

By Eleanor Abaya and Fred Gilbert

Last fall, Lakehead University held a Town Hall Meeting to provide information on its policy on high-frequency wireless local area network technology commonly known as WiFi (short for "wireless fidelity").

Lakehead's policy states that there will be no use of WiFi in those areas of the University already served by hard wire connectivity until such time as the potential health effects have been scientifically rebutted or there are adequate protective measures that can be taken.

Eleanor Abaya, Lakehead's Director of Communications, met with Lakehead University President Fred Gilbert after the meeting to discuss his concerns over the effects of long-term exposure to WiFi electromagnetic fields, and his approach in limiting wireless connectivity based on the precautionary principle.


Eleanor Abaya: What is your main concern about wireless networks?

Fred Gilbert
: Potential health effects! There are now so many peer-reviewed studies demonstrating biological effects that it is difficult to imagine that there are no negative health effects.

Abaya: What do you say to critics of your position who say that, according to Health Canada and other sources, there are no health concerns about wireless technologies?

: Get your heads out of the sand! Read the literature - a great starting point is the Bio Initiative Report - www.bioinitiative.org. What that report clearly demonstrates is that the standards that are supposed to protect us are set too high in North America.

Abaya: Lakehead prides itself in being a leader in offering advanced communications technology for teaching and learning. Does our current WiFi policy not threaten this leadership position and project the image that we at Lakehead are technologically backward?

: Lakehead has demonstrated clearly a commitment to being at the forefront of technological advancement. We were one of the first Canadian universities to put in place VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephony, and we are still one of the largest Canadian deployments of VOIP. We have developed classroom learning technology with partners Sony, IBM, Precision Camera, and others. We acquired a Cray supercomputer early on and an SGI-based virtual reality laboratory (among others).

Both the Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses are hardwired with fibre optic connectivity. WiFi is a  convenience, not a necessity in such an environment. We have permitted the Lakehead University Student Union to provide this convenience in student-controlled space on the Thunder Bay campus - The Outpost - provided the site is posted as a WiFi hotspot and the radiation does not impinge on areas outside The Outpost.

Abaya: What infrastructure is currently in place for connectivity at Lakehead?

: Lakehead University data communications network supports all administration, research, and academic needs. The network encompasses over 66 wiring closets, 290 Ethernet switches, and over 7,500 network connections.

The infrastructure is tied together over a multi-gigabyte fibre-optic backbone. Computers, cameras, environmental controls, and over 2,600 IP phones are just some of the devices using TCP/IP as the standard for connecting across this network.

Lakehead also maintains connections to high-speed research networks ORION, CANet4, and other commercial internet providers. Connectivity to the Orillia campus and remote offices exists over leased and dedicated Ethernet infrastructure.

Our overall connectivity infrastructure is as modern and efficient as anywhere in the Ontario university system. 

The policy

Click here to view Lakehead University WiFi Policy.

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