Stop it! You're not fooling anyone

Last weekend in Duluth there were over 60 APs or hotspots running on 2.4 GHz at one point. Ten to fifteen were local infrastructure and the fields, but that leaves about one third of the teams violating the rules.

Changing your AP so it doesn’t broadcast its SSID doesn’t change anything. You’re still consuming spectrum, we can still see you and you are still causing issues with field operations.

Every time the field has to make adjustments to deal with the Wi-Fi environment it’s delaying the entire event by about 10 minutes. That 10 minutes across the 2000 people at the DECC last week amounts to 20,000 person minutes or close to 14 person days wasted.

It was bad last year and it’s worse this year. The community has an opportunity to police itself here. The other option is that FIRST decides it’s getting out of hand and feels they need to do something, and that something is likely to be that if any of your team members gets caught Running Wi-Fi the team gets a red card for its next match.


Why do you assume every hotspot was an individual team? Why assume it was a team at all and not some unsuspecting parent?


Doesn’t the field run on 5GHz? Do devices on 2.4 effect devices on 5, or is there parts of the field that need 2.4? Was there also a lot of APs on 5GHz? Or am I completely confused?


I wonder how much bandwidth everyone is using on their personal hotspots? It seems like it might be a reasonable solution for the FMS to include it’s own public wifi network. Then we could recommend people connect to that instead of just telling them to live without access to the internet.


A few years ago I saw a hotspot from the field supervisor.


Or at least a table with a few ethernet cables for downloading updates for teams that aren’t on the latest libraries, especially with numerous Rev, WPI, and Phoenix mid season updates this year.


Shouldnt the cases have sniffers? Any reason people wernt set out to get them shut off?

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Is this really how we want the precious time of our few volunteers spent? Especially at small district events that are volunteer-limited?

I’ve seen this done maliciously as well. The team seated in front of us at champs a couple years ago was running a wi-fi scouting system with a hot spot. They played cat and mouse turning the network on and off as a couple officials walked around with the wifi scanners checking.

This was at St. Louis, and it was neat seeing the scanning team walk around looking. Eventually they were caught when the guys walked up behind the team and they didn’t see them coming. I only realized what was going on when I heard the kids talking about it in front of us “Here they come, kill the network”.

This is one of those rare instances where the bad actors can affect the entire event. I support a normal yellow card to red card progression. I won’t state the behavior is any worse than others I’ve seen at events, it’s just become ubiquitous and some team members just make bad decisions. I always believe in a warning first.


I’ve often thought it would be a good idea for events to set up a “honeypot” wifi network on 2.4 GHz (and maybe a 5 GHz channel far away from the field channel) named something really common like “dlink”. Ideally it would provide heavily rate-limited internet access (e.g. just enough for scouting or TBA access, but not downloading updates or playing games). I think this would not only dramatically reduce the number of illicit hotspots, but also would get the hundreds of cell phones probing for wifi something to attach to so they don’t probe on the 5 GHz field channels.

I think the reason this is commonly not done is that venues charge for this type of public internet access or don’t allow it. An agreement to give the FMS internet access is significantly easier to get than public-access wifi.


While I tend to agree about generalizations, I feel safe in saying that an unsuspecting parent wouldn’t be running a ssid-less network in an attempt to hide it.


Sounds like E12/E13 was broken, did you say something?

If its an issue at the event, then it needs to be dealt with. If you have 60 hotspots going that affects the fms, some shutting down and threats of being kicked out (E13 specifically if its interfering with the FMS) should do the trick, as mean as it is.

I didn’t feel the need to - I didn’t realize what was happening until just before they were caught as the kids start calling out when they saw the sniffers walking around. If it had continued, I probably would have said something to their parents and coaches before I reported them.

I always believe in giving people a chance to fix their mistakes.


If one is willing to use phone plan data for scouting, you don’t need to break the rules and create a wifi hot spot to make that work. You can USB tether a phone to a laptop to make it run off your phone data.

Before I figured that out, we simply didn’t rely on internet access for scouting. Now we have an easy way to use the cloud in scouting, at least within the limits of my data plan. The individual scouts can use phone data to enter data, and the amount of data needed isn’t very much.


Does it matter? The event rules clearly state no wireless hotspots.

E12. No wireless communication. Teams may not set up their own 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz or 5GHz) wireless communication (e.g. access points or ad-hoc networks) in the venue.

A wireless hot spot created by a cellular device, camera, etc. is still considered
an access point.

Violation: A verbal warning. Repeated violations will be addressed by the Head REFEREE, the Lead ROBOT Inspector and/or Event Management.

That “Repeated violations” section is where teams and individuals won’t be happy. The Head ref has the authority to issue yellow/red cards (See C1). The LRI has the authority to reinspect your robot/driver station, looking for unauthorized wireless communication (See section 11). The Event Management has the authority to kick individuals out of the venue. These are items that aren’t used often or lightly, because FIRST participants are usually pretty good at following the rules, and when they’re asked to modify their behavior they do, so it doesn’t escalate to the point where we need to take further action. It would really suck to see something like this cause an issue at an event. Just turn off the hotspots, or if you really need one in a pinch, head outside and do it from your car or hotel.


I’m going to assume this was far less confrontational in your head than it came across here.

Based on the number of Wi-Fi networks where the SSIDs were changed to not broadcast rather than shut off, I’m confident there were enough teams responsible to throw some blame around.

Yes, some of them were people who have the Hotspot on their phone turned on and probably wonder why their battery life is so short. Honestly, they aren’t the problem. Its the folks streaming video that eat the bandwidth.


Is there anything preventing a non 2.4 or 5 GHz network, just out of curiosity?

I personally agree with the setting up a public wifi network, this way we dont get literally every channel consumed. If we have the FMS on say, channel 1, and the public network on say, channel 2, we shouldn’t get much overlap and I’m sure teams would be more willing to cooperate with not using their hotspots etc.


No confrontation intended. Just legitimately curious. Given that there were efforts to hide the SSID I suppose that’s a pretty obvious sign that the culprits know the rules and are trying to get around them. I’m completely with you that such behaviour isn’t acceptable per the rules!

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There is no specific frequency band called out in this part of the rule so there are no exceptions for where one would be allowed to set up a communication channel.

Nor in this part of the rule.

There is a time and place to think outside the box. There is also a time and place to think inside the box. This situation really calls for the later.

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Actually, channel 1 and channel 2 would have a lot of overlap and create possible interference.

You would need something such as channel 1 and channel 11 (assuming WAP’s are using HT20) to ensure minimal interference.

However, with the number of people at events, setting up a single WiFi hotspot for hundreds of team members/visitors on a single channel is not very feasible. Usually, large venues have several WAP’s on different channels to load-balance the hundreds of connected clients.