Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 28, 2021

Student Internet access restricted by “JHGuestnet”

By Elizabeth Arenz | September 20, 2012

This past summer, Hopkins lengthened the list of sites blocked on its guest network “JHGuestnet”, limiting access to those sites for those students unable to connect to the secure “hopkins” network.

The changes took place because “JHGuestnet” can’t handle the volume of data coming in from media heavy websites.

“[The University is handling] much more wireless networking,” Manager of Wireless Infrastructure Calvin Sproul said.

Sites that are restricted by “JHGuestnet” are chosen by programs that filter based on content and standard policies due to the limited capacity and bandwidth of the network.

For example, the popular website whatshouldwecallme.tumblr.com is blocked on the network.

According to Sproul, blocking sites on “JHGuestnet” ensures that it only has to provide what the network can handle.

“[This prevents] the overwhelming of resources and capacity,” he said.

If students would like “JHGuestnet” to unblock specific websites, they can submit proposals.

Though Hopkins’s Information Technology website states its “‘JHGuestnet’ network is for casual use by guests and visitors at any Hopkins Campus,” many students at Hopkins often use it due connection issues with the “hopkins” wireless network.

“I don’t think [‘JHGuestnet’] was ever meant as a backup to the ‘hopkins’ network,” Sproul said. “Since Guestnet is such an easy thing to do, people gravitate toward it but it’s only meant as a courtesy network for visitors and parents who are [at Hopkins] for a short amount of time.”

According to Sproul, the University would rather have students and staff use the “hopkins” network because it is more secure. He hopes that the restrictions would act as a deterrent to those who are able to use “hopkins” because “JHGuestnet” is so unsecure.

However, many students still resort to using the limiting JHGuestnet.

Though the IT Help Desk is capable of solving configuration problems, it is not open on the weekends when many students devote their time to work and need Internet access.

“Sometimes on a Saturday or a Sunday, I’ll wake up and not be able to access the ‘hopkins’ server,” sophomore Jenna Santoro said.

Without the guaranteed help of the IT Desk on the weekend, she is forced to use “JHGuestnet.”

Freshman and sophomore students commonly do not bring their own routers to school because they are provided with University housing, and therefore, rely solely on how well they can get the “hopkins” network to work in their rooms.

Sproul acknowledged that there are lapses in coverage.

“I realize that the Guestnet is probably the main network on the St. Paul side,” he said.

However, the University has expanded the “hopkins” network to Bradford, Buildings A and B and the AMRs and is currently looking at other areas.

Yet for students living in Charles Commons, particularly on the St. Paul side of the building, accessing the “hopkins” network is especially difficult.

“I am very unsatisfied with [the University’s] ability to get the job done. During the first several weeks of school I would lose access to the Hopkins network on and off. Half the time Guestnet wouldn’t even work for me, and when it did work, it was actually less efficient than just using the library computers,” sophomore Will Szymanski said.

Other students argued that the restriction of certain websites on “JHGuestnet” is, very simply, unfair.

“I understand reasons for why the university would find it necessary to block certain websites that are inappropriate,” sophomore Nicole Babaknia said. “However, I think they should have a little more trust in their students to make the right choices. We’re all pretty intelligent here and I think we know for the most part what is appropriate to look at on the [university server] and what is not.”

Nonetheless, with these new policies applied, students have no choice but to utilize “JHGuestnet” until an alternative, secure option is available.

With the necessary expansion of wiring in Charles Commons slated for October, the University hopes students will have greater access to the “hopkins” network and not have to rely on the unsecure “JHGuestnet” for much longer.

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