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The Citywide Wireless Access 

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Due to modern technological advancements, it seems that everyone in today’s society is used to and dependent upon internet access. From research to social media and in between, the majority of earth’s population is acclimated to having the World Wide Web at their fingertips. Firefighters are no different. Seeing that the need for internet access has become almost a necessity, citywide wireless access seems to be the next logical step. From a firefighter’s perspective, having the ability to research, communicate, and perform administrative duties is paramount in the career field and having internet access is crucial in facilitating this need. With that being said, in order to technologically modernize itself like its neighboring counties, the city has decided to present a proposal for public access to wireless internet access at certain locations throughout the city at tonight’s council meeting.

The locations proposed for Internet access are City Hall, parking authority offices, the local airport, and the fire department. This proposal will cost the city approximately $30,000 for internet routers and other wireless related equipment. Even though I believe this is a great service being provided by the city, I believe that some precautions and policies need to but established prior to the implementation phase of this program. Being the Fire Chief of our local fire department, I am cautious about employing unlimited internet access to the public and city employees on the city’s domain without proper precautions. So much so that I rescinded wireless Internet use a year ago in one of my fire stations that was paid for by station members. I also forbid this type of situation from happening again in the department. Unfortunately, I did not foresee the consequences to my actions. Ultimately, my firefighters filed a complaint with their union in which losing their online connection violated their “contractual right to freedom of reading material.”

Eventually, my actions were found meritless and the city settled the issue with the firefighter’s union. As previously mentioned, due to the firefighter’s grievance, a settlement was reached between the city and the union. Under the settlement, the firefighters will no longer pay for any wireless internet access (once the internet access proposal is implemented). Also, all required wireless equipment and all annual maintenance will be paid for by the taxes of the community members. Since the consensus of the city council members will be approving the proposal, the city’s administration has taken a proactive approach to address the imminent citywide internet access agenda. Seeing that the city has an established employee computer usage policy for internal computer domain use, the city’s information technology (IT) department will need to address the public’s external connection to the city’s computer domain. The IT department will have to scrutinize what sites and applications the public will be able to access.

The IT department will also help with the anticipated troubleshooting dilemmas and technical support that may arise. The planned connection time for the public wireless internet access is 6 pm to 8 am on weekdays and on weekends the available times will be 1 pm to 8 am. One of the biggest concerns with the public wireless access is the possibility of malware infecting the city’s computer system that could greatly affect its efficiency and security. Malware is a universal phrase used to describe malicious computer threats like viruses, adware, or similar types of software that is typically installed on a user’s computer without their knowledge. According to an article about how malware maybe introduced into a system, it states, “infected email attachment or removable storage media (thumb drives), downloaded software (including mobile apps), and through links in emails, social media websites, or instant messages”. Taking into consideration on the possibilities of a malware attack on the city’s computer system, it would behoove the IT department to restrict and monitor the sites accessed publicly.

Additionally, ensuring proper procedures, firewalls, and appropriate managing of the internet program does not affect the city negatively. Since the fire department along with all other city employees are required to follow the city’s internet policy for internal access, the same must be done for all city employees when they access the citywide wireless internet. According to the settlement between the city and firefighter’s union, part of the agreement requires firefighters to adhere to “all applicable city policies and standards regarding computer usage”, which they do when accessing county computers at their respective stations. Along with the citywide wireless internet access, the city also reiterated the city’s computer policy that prohibits any employee from accessing sexually oriented sites and/or materials. Another issue brought up about the wireless connection by a city spokesperson was the fear of our city workforce logging into eBay, Facebook, and other social networking websites (which is restricted on the current county computer policy).

The city’s steadfast stance was that all municipal workers are not allowed on any social media websites on the wireless domain during their respective duty hours. Although there are policies and controls in place to limit members from unauthorized areas, sometimes incidents can happen. Unfortunately, at the time of memorandum, an incident happened in the neighboring county in regards to unauthorized access of a website from a similar wireless internet system that we will be adopting here in the county. An officer from the adjacent police department district was caught with child pornographic material on his laptop. The officer knowingly accessed the inappropriate elements and intentionally disregarded the county’s computer requirements and regulations.

Child pornography is a form of sexual exploitation that involves any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct with a minor (any person under the age of 18 years old) (DoJ, n.d.). It is illegal to possess, produce, distribute, import or receive any images of child pornography. Violation of a child pornography law is a severe crime and any convicted criminals stand to face strict statutory penalties. Referencing the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) website for an example of a violation, it states “a first time offender convicted of producing child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2251, face fines and a statutory minimum of 15 years to 30 years maximum in prison” (DoJ, n.d.). This type of blatant behavior is totally unacceptable and must not be tolerated. Our municipality cannot allow something like this to happen and these types of matters should be met with swift action.  This type of isolated situation should not reflect the image of the neighboring community.

Being that the affected bordering town had multiple types of controls in place to impede individuals from accessing inappropriate websites and having proper policies with training to ensure folks understand the city’s expectations of who utilizes the wireless internet, an incident still was able to happen. The city administration and we as town departmental managers needs to ensure that this type of problem does not happen in our county. It is my recommendation that we establish a zero tolerance policy and disciplinary actions on any type infraction to the computer use regulations once the wireless internet program is initiated. We should also provide initial training for all county workers that will access the wireless internet to confirm the city’s expectations of wireless internet use and have members sign an acknowledgement form to eliminate the “I didn’t know” possibilities. Training should be recurring annually once initial training is completed. Another suggestion I have is to institute a monitoring system in the IT department.

In an article, it states “Network and IT monitoring solutions are a key line of defense against malicious software applications, unauthorized users and other cybersecurity concerns which should never be underestimated”. Implementing a monitoring system is vital so we do not find ourselves in the same predicament our fellow county neighbor’s went through. Monitoring is especially important now due to multiple ways individuals can access the citywide wireless internet access (smart phones, iPads, tablets, etc.). If all these recommendations are taken in to consideration, I will concur with the city council plan. So in closing, I believe that the city is making great steps into the technological modernization age in providing citywide wireless access to the internet to the public and its workforce in certain city buildings. Although internet access is a benefit, it can become hindrance to all by the negative actions of a few. Constant monitoring and appropriate accountability to members that break the rules are essential into managing the new wireless program.

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