British Parliament members demand Wi-Fi access

Wires-only network irks some, who believe that the security obstacles to wireless access can be overcome.

Wireless Internet access should be installed in parts of the Houses of Parliament to give its members access to information on the move.

So says a report by the U.K. House of Commons Administration Committee, calling for secure wireless access after it found that some new members of Parliament struggled to work before they were given office space.

"We recommend that wireless Internet access should be provided in those areas likely to be of most use to members," the report said. "We appreciate the security and viability issues around wireless Internet access but believe that it should be possible to overcome these difficulties."

The report examines how the House of Commons services responded to the influx of 123 new Parliament members following last year's election.

And while members can have calls forwarded from their parliamentary phone number to a mobile phone, the report said 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."

Laptops supplied to Parliament members have both wireless and Bluetooth 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."

Former members also complained that their e-mail is switched off too early with no automatic-reply option to warn constituents of the change. "An e-mail automatic-response service for former members should be provided as a matter of course in (the) future for a period of several months after a general election," the report said.

Steve Ranger of reported from London.

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