Networks and Public Safety

Police Get Secure WiFi Access at 3 Iowa Schools

The Iowa Department of Public Safety has launched a program that allows the state’s law enforcement officers to park their patrol cars outside schools and access secure, high-speed WiFi Internet service.

Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Roxann Ryan announced the pilot project for the service, dubbed WISE, at a news conference this week. WISE stands for WiFi Internet for School Emergencies. Officials are working on the project with three WiFi equipment vendors — Aruba, Cisco and Fortinet.

The service will be secure and offer bandwidth of up to 100 Mbps for emergency and non-emergency situations. The Marshalltown, Norwalk and Martensdale school districts will be the first to offer the service, the Des Moines Register reported. Officials hope to eventually expand the initiative statewide, the Register said.

The service will be available to law enforcement and other emergency responders to assist with incidents at schools, Ryan said. However, officers on routine patrol will also be able to stop at schools and use the high-speed WiFi service to transmit routine law enforcement reports and to download information. In addition, officers will be able to view school surveillance cameras at school districts that have Internet-based surveillance systems before they arrive at a scene.

“We will be able to communicate far better in emergencies as a result of that good connection,” Ryan said during the news conference.

The service will utilize the Iowa Communications Network, a broadband carrier network that already links Iowa schools, National Guard armories, government offices, public safety agencies and healthcare sectors.

No costs are anticipated to school districts that are assisting with the pilot project, the Register said. Officials anticipate the expenses for implementing the service will be relatively low.

The system is being designed with security features so that only authorized personnel can access it. “We are confident as we can be” that computer hackers cannot access the system, Ryan said.

The Iowa system is being built as a simulation of the FirstNet network, a national program focused on creating a private LTE wireless network dedicated to law enforcement and public safety use. However, the WISE project will not use LTE wireless networks, the Register said.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].