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U.K. Parliament mulls wireless connectivity

Owing to space problems, quite a few members of the U.K. Parliament (it is a matter of seniority) have their offices outside the Houses of Parliament in neighboring office buildings. This means that on a busy day of committee meetings and floor voting, an MP may be away from his or her office for most of the day. Now members of Parliament are demanding that wireless Internet access be installed throughout the Houses of Parliament to give them access to information while on the move and the ability freely to communicate with their staffs.

A report by the House of Commons Administration Committee called for secure wireless access after it found that some new members of Parliament struggled to work before they were given office space. The report examines how the House of Commons services responded to the influx of 123 new Parliament members following last May's election. MPs can have calls forwarded from their parliamentary phone number to a mobile phone, but wireless Internet access is lacking. "The Parliamentary Data and Video Network is a wires-only network, to which only computers matching a centrally specified standard can be connected."

Each MP receives a laptop from the House, but currently the laptop's wireless and Bluetooth connections are both disabled, and the report warned that this "significantly limited" the extent to which a member without an office could work within the parliamentary estate. "I can work anywhere in the country... if there is a coffee shop next door with a wireless LAN. The only place I was unable to work is here," new Parliament member Adam Afriyie told the committee. "I used to spend afternoons sitting on the steps outside Portcullis House so that I could get a signal from what I think is Caffe Nero next door."

Parliament leaders cite security reasons to explain their hesitation to allow wireless connections.

Read more about the Parliament's wireless conundrum:
- in this CNET report

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