Duke now says Cisco, not iPhone, caused Wi-Fi snafu

Apple supporters blame school officials for rush to judgment

Duke University said yesterday that widely publicized problems with its campus wireless network it had originally blamed on Apple Inc. iPhones had instead been traced to Cisco Systems Inc. hardware. A fix has been applied, the school added.

For their part, Apple supporters blasted Duke for falsely accusing the new iPhone for playing a part in the flap.

First reported last Wednesday, the problem involved failures of up to 30 wireless access points at a time across Duke's Durham, N.C., campus. The cause, school IT administrators thought then, was the built-in Wi-Fi adapters on iPhones, which were pinging the hot spots with thousands of address requests each second.

The relatively small number of iPhones registered to Duke's wireless LAN -- just 150, according to the Network World story -- were nevertheless hogging bandwidth with endless address requests and taking down access points for 10 to 15 minutes at a stretch.

Friday, Duke's chief information officer, Tracy Futhey, posted a note on the university's Web site that fingered an unspecified Cisco issue for the trouble. "Cisco worked closely with Duke and Apple to identify the source of this problem, which was caused by a Cisco-based network issue," said Futhey. "Cisco has provided a fix that has been applied to Duke's network and there have been no recurrences of the problem since."

Futhey also took exception with news reports that she said made it sound as if Duke's wireless infrastructure was falling apart and as if the iPhone wouldn't work with its network. "The reality is that a particular set of conditions made the Duke wireless network experience some minor and temporary disruptions in service," she argued. "Those conditions involve our deployment of a very large Cisco-based wireless network that supports multiple network protocols.

"Earlier reports that this was a problem with the iPhone in particular have proved to be inaccurate," Futhey added. Those reports, however, were largely based on a statement by another Duke administrator, Kevin Miller, assistant director of communications infrastructure with the school's Office of Information Technology, who pinned the blame on the iPhone. "I don’t believe it’s a Cisco problem in any way, shape or form," Miller told Network World on July 18.

Neither Duke nor Cisco spelled out the applied fix or the root cause. Cisco did not immediately reply to a request for additional information.

Not surprisingly, Apple and iPhone supporters were angry at Duke for rushing to judgment. "They should not have 'announced' that it was the iPhone until after the problem was resolved," said a user identified as "jwilkinson1977" on Apple's iPhone support forum. "It's just bad publicity and wasn't warranted."

Traditional college rivalries even played a part in the Duke bashing. "I think Dook [sic] owes Apple an apology!!!!!!!" wrote another user, pegged as Evangelist on the same thread. "Of course, I am a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, if that makes a difference.....AND IT DOES! I knew all along that the percentile was like 99.99999999999988998 that Dook had either done or not done something."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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