Like WiFi at work? Then don't work for the government

Apparently, many federal office buildings lack WiFi. Do you even remember what that was like?

Raise your hand if you remember the long ago days of working without WiFi in your workplace. For most of us, those days might seem pretty distant. Do you remember what it’s like having to sit through long meetings without having your smartphone, tablet or laptop handy and connected so you can actually get something productive done (even if that something was checking Facebook)? Or what is was like when you actually had to drag or coax people to your cubicle to show them something important on your computer (which was also during the days when the computer monitor itself took up about half of your cube)?

While those days may seem as distant as the Victorian Era or the Stone Age for most people, if you work for the federal government that may still describe your current work situation. The Federal Times reported earlier this week that in many federal office buildings, WiFi is simply not available. Internet connectivity depends on a good old Ethernet connection, this despite the government spending $1.2 billion annually on mobile devices and services.

pentagon-600x450_0.jpgImage credit: REUTERS
Good luck using WiFi at the Pentagon

The reasons given for the lack of WiFi in many federal buildings include lack of funding, high levels of security and physical issues. In some cases, it’s not surprising; I would expect a place like the Pentagon to have some strict security regulations in place. Then again, does the entire 6.5 million square feet of space need highly secure WiFi?

Other excuses offered in the Federal Times piece seem a bit odd, like for example, that due to building age or government bureaucracy, it’s difficult to get ahold of building floor plans for planning wireless networks. Really? That's reason?

Yes, you say, but what about relying on cellular networks for Internet access? Turns out that’s not always reliable either, particularly in a place like the Pentagon, what with its thick concrete walls and underground offices and such.

Will the level of WiFi access in federal buildings be improving anytime soon? Given the rate at which the government moves, and the ongoing budget deficit, probably not. However, maybe this is part of the reason the FCC is proposing to buy back spectrum from TV stations which could, in theory, be used to create powerful WiFi networks? Anyone know what the WiFi situation is at the FCC building?

Of course, if federal workers really want to have a meeting where everybody can access WiFi, there’s always Starbucks - which might not be a bad thing.

Do you work for the federal government and do you have WiFi access? Do you work in the private sector without WiFi? Or maybe you actually miss the days of not having WiFi at work? Let us know in the comments.

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