• United States

WLANs get their day in court

Aug 12, 20042 mins

* County court rigs courthouse with WLAN access

These are exciting times for wireless LANs. Everywhere you look there is a new story of some government body or other organization throwing up a WLAN for public use.

Chantry Networks this week revealed that the Metropolitan Court of Bernalillo County, N.M., has installed the company’s BeaconWorks WLAN equipment throughout the 10-story courthouse.

Why? Well, prospective jurors apparently didn’t like sitting around all day with nothing to amuse themselves but a book of crossword puzzles while waiting for their names to be called. Plus, lawyers and judges need the Internet, too.

Something about it doesn’t seem quite right, though. I mean, can’t you just imagine everyone involved in a trial surfing the Web while some exceedingly boring witness drones on and on? The judge, the lawyers, the jury. (The court didn’t say it would provide access inside courtrooms or that it would allow laptops in those rooms, but really, that’s the next step, isn’t it?)

Interestingly, the court is using the wireless network for phones. Cellular phones are prohibited inside the courthouse, and the court’s own security force was using proprietary 900-MHz phones for communications, but Chantry says the concrete and steel of the building caused way too much interference, dropping calls, so the court got voice-over-WLAN phones from SpectraLink that communicate over Chantry’s gear. This traffic gets priority over prospective jurors’ Internet traffic.

Chantry points out that security was an important part of the deployment, with reliable authentication needed for everyone using the network, regardless of operating system. The company offers a portal that authenticates users through a Web page.

The complete implementation will include two of Chantry’s BeaconMaster routers, 65 BeaconPoint access points and 36 of the SpectraLink phones.