What’s the issue with the computers?

Emmy Reitinger, Staff Reporter

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A computer screen displays a message that states "This site can't be reached".

An error screen appears on a school laptop. This message has been appearing often on students’ computers due to a new filter system applied to FCCPS computers.

At George Mason, student laptops are a part of daily life. But if you’ve walked through the halls of Mason recently, you know they clearly are not anymore.

Students still carry them, but lately they’ve had a hard time using them during their classes and at home.

“If the freshman didn’t all have Fortnite on their computers, then the computers and the wifi would work better, and students would be able to get more work done without the issues,” said Sophomore Noah Loi, when asked about what he thought of the recent computer issues.

While the internet we have can be slow sometimes it’s important to remember that the internet costs the school $17,520 per year. It’s this expensive because there are so many student and teacher laptops that are using the wifi.

Column graph depicting the cost without the rebate as $17,520, and with, it costs $7,008.

E-Rate helps offset the expensive cost of providing wireless internet service to hundreds of students and staff, with a rebate of 40 percent.

FCCPS, along with many other school systems, uses a program managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), called E-Rate.  Using this program comes with a requirement: In exchange for the government helping to pay for our internet, FCCPS is required to filter certain sites that have inappropriate content, viruses or anything of that sort on the computers. School systems are free to choose any program to do the filtering.

Overall the primary contributor to all of the issues seems to be the switch this year from the filtering software Barracuda to iboss.

“As we continued to add more and more computers to the network we needed something better,” said Instructional Technology Coordinator Steven Knight, referring to the switch.

That something was iboss, even though Barracuda had worked well, iboss is a higher quality software that can handle more computers, so during the summer of 2018 FCCPS made the switch.

“A few times we have just had to do something totally different because I, as the teacher, or my students could not get on the internet or to an application,” said English teacher Ms. Weston, who is one of many teachers frustrated by the recent technology issues.

Currently, the issues on the computers have been due to the them thinking a page has been blocked. The laptops are having issues determining which sites are blocked and which aren’t because the administrators (Mr. Knight and our IT department) are still working with iboss to make sure sites are being filtered properly. They also have to be monitoring that the computers are connecting to iboss correctly and efficiently.

Shows a list of different whitelist examples, including schoology, GMHS Lasso, Google Drive, and Quizlet.

Why iboss?

The school purchased iboss in order to block more sites and handle all of the computers. But now the school has the task of creating a new “whitelist” for iboss.

A whitelist is where you allow the computers to access certain sites. Since administrators are still working on adding sites to the whitelist, some sites are inadvertently still blocked by the program

In the future, if students are having issues getting on a site, they should ask a teacher or talk with Mr. Knight to see what can be done about getting it unblocked.