What you need to know about Red Feather Lakes Library's 23.5/7 Internet access

One of the tech issues we’re occasionally asked here at the library (other than e-Book setup — we’ll discuss that next month) is about our 24/7 wireless Internet access. Is it fully available 24 hours a day 7 days a week? It is. And, is library wireless a secure connection? It is not.

There’s a couple of clarifying points to be made on both issues. First, service is nearly always 24/7. The operative word is “nearly” because things happen and tend to happen a bit more here, 50 miles from town, than they do on College Avenue. We’ve had occasional, though infrequent, issues with wind, downed trees, heavy snow and circuit box auto accidents, rodents chewing through outside lines and other Acts of God.

However, because our connection is separate from the power grid and critical network equipment is on battery backup, a local or area power outage does not usually curtail Internet access. In fact, there’s been several times in the last couple of years where library users have merrily taken advantage of robust internet connections while it’s taken a flashlight in order to retrieve and shelve books. Battery backup allows for several hours of Internet access. Often in a power outage, the library has eventually closed because of lack of water (with an electric pump) rather than loss of connectivity.

So, in being perfectly honest we’re more 23.5/7 than 24/7 averaged out. And while we’re unlikely to change the signs or the logo, we will make every effort, day or night, to restore wireless service after a disruption. Occasionally this requires a service call to our provider, and again that 50 miles from town becomes an issue.

Secondly, we’re occasionally asked if the library’s Wi-Fi connection is secure. It isn’t and can’t be in providing unimpeded access to users 23.5/7. Security protocols such as WPA or WPA2 certainly could be implemented which would make your session much more secure — provided you have the password, but would do very little for the out-of-area fisherman who stops by at 11 p.m. to check tomorrow’s weather forecast but lacks that password.

So, in allowing wireless access for everyone the line is unsecured. We strongly recommend that critical or sensitive wireless connections be avoided. Please don’t do your banking or other financial transactions through library wireless. We’re open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and you’re welcome to come in during that span and use a secure Ethernet connection — through your machine or ours — for more sensitive connections. While we use state of the art security subscriptions through our Cisco/Meraki hardware to prevent or limit outside intrusions peer interception of unsecured wireless is possible. We do recommend safe and secure personal computing.

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