290B Parker Farm Road, Buxton, ME 04093
(207) 929-9149 (ph), (866) 459-5150 (fax)
Scott Nason - Director of Technology

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why can't my phone connect to the network?

Why can’t my phone connect to the network?

As we start the new school year, it is probably a good time to talk about cell phone use during school.  Some may find that their phone (or other personal devices) won’t connect to the SAD 6 wireless network and they wonder why.  In most cases it is because that device has been blocked. 

The SAD 6 Board of Directors has approved several policies relating to the use of personal electronic devices by both staff members and by students.  You can find them on the district website.  The primary purpose of these policies is to ensure that the district technology, including the network, is used “to support the educational mission of the schools”.  In addition, the law requires that the district shield students from sites which promote violence, obscenity, or other subjects which may be harmful to minors.

The Technology Department is tasked to insure that all users and devices comply with the district policies.  On a typical school day, the district has over 5000 devices (laptops, iPads, printers, telephones) using the network, and there may be another 1-2,000 personal devices.  In order to fulfill these requirements, the district uses a device commonly referred to as a “firewall”.  Not only does this specialized computer provide the ability to restrict access to specific sites or applications, it also protects the district network and devices from intrusions, viruses, malware, and other threats from outside our network.  The firewall employs a list of websites and applications to filter from our network, such as Facebook, Tumblr, Minecraft, Skype, etc. The firewall also tracks all incoming and outgoing network traffic and generates reports to identify the most accessed (or blocked) sites, the devices using the most bandwidth, any outside threats, etc.

So how does this relate to your cell phone being blocked?  Here are some simple rules that we use to single out a device from using the district network:
  • 1.     If a cell phone is listed among the top network users, it is blocked.  Remember the network is there to facilitate the educational process.
  • 2.     If a device continuously attempts to access a blocked site (like Facebook), it is generating useless network traffic and it is blocked.
  • 3.     If a device is using some application intended to circumvent the firewall filtering, it is in violation of District policy and it is blocked.
  • 4.     If a device is being used to play games or listen to streaming music or video during the school day, it may be blocked.

Some might argue that there a very good educational uses for some of the sites that are blocked and they are correct.  For example, Mr. Taylor at BEHS uses Skype to communicate with an inventor in Europe.   Students can learn a lot from that kind of activity.  However, when there are 1,200 Skype sessions going on at one time, most of them are students Skype’ing with each other and that is not an educational use.  Because of that, Skype is blocked at BEHS and BEMS.

In summary, all staff and students should be familiar with the District policies regarding the use of personal electronic devices.  The wireless network and the Internet access are provided to facilitate the educational mission of MSAD 6.  If personal devices are seen as interfering with that mission, they may be blocked from future access to that network.  At no time does it prevent you from using your device, it will just have to be via your cell carrier, and not the MSAD 6 network.