Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

A Reliable Environment

As Wi-Fi Demand Grows, Coalition
To Propose ‘Common Sense’ Practices

A great meeting experience today requires the optimum quality and quantity of Wi-Fi and bandwidth on site. But few show organizers fully understand the infrastructure, delivery, pricing and regulatory complexities. A new Wi-Fi Coalition initiated by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) aims to propose “common sense” rules and practices for Wi-Fi, around which all sides of the meetings and event industry can rally. Think of them as “standard operating principles” formulated to ensure a reliable Wi-Fi environment for both individual and group users.

How it began. The coalition started as an internal taskforce at IAVM. The issue came to light with the initial fine assessed against Marriott for Wi-Fi hotspot blocking by the Federal Communications Commission, and IAVM has been working on this since then.

Who’s involved. Joining the coalition so far are the Convention Industry Council (CIC) and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). Some technology providers (like Smart City Networks) and major convention centers are participating as well. “The issues have really profound impact in the exhibition space,” said Lawrence Leonard, CAE, CMP, chief operating officer of CIC.

“We all agree that we have to do a better job educating our stakeholders about Wi-Fi,” noted David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA, president and CEO of IAEE. “We know there is a significant cost and everyone wants the best systems and bandwidth. But the reality is that facilities would love to break even on these expenditures, and show organizers want to minimize their expenses.” The FCC also needs both public and private industry input on the issue, DuBois pointed out. There are unanticipated consequences in disallowing remote deauthentication — what facilities use to block “unauthorized” wireless hotspots.
What’s happening. The dozen or so coalition participants are talking via conference calls and conducting individual work on the key Wi-Fi issues. “Some of the topics quickly become very technical, which is why the coalition needs to break down the context into best practices that planners and suppliers can grasp,” said Leonard.

The timeframe. Over the course of the next six months, the coalition wants to put relevant material, best practices and information “on the table, the quicker the better,” said DuBois.

Getting buy-in. Since these will not be hard rules, it was important for other industry associations to join the coalition. CIC itself represents 33 industry-related organizations, 103,500 individuals and 19,500 companies and properties. “Our 33 pipes reach into all sectors of the industry and let us get the information on best practices out through our member organizations,” said Leonard.

Here’s why these rules are needed now. Consumers with access to faster services migrate to higher service tiers, according to the 5th Measuring Broadband America Report from the FCC. Advances in network technology are yielding significant improvements in broadband speeds and quality, said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But that means attendees come with higher expectations of a meeting’s Wi-Fi performance.

This puts pressures on show organizers to deliver on that promise, when they’re negotiating with venues and suppliers years out. How many more devices will each stakeholder bring and use? What increased requirements will technology bring? And how will venues and technology vendors manage network interference, integrity, security and “noise” disruption? This all comes as the FCC continues its aggressive rulings in favor of robust Internet connectivity and against the blocking of “unauthorized” wireless hotspots.

Not only that, but the FCC, in its recently issued 2016 Broadband Progress Report, cited that “Data and speed demand from smartphones, tablets and other wireless connections is increasing constantly, as is the capability of such devices. Thus, advanced telecommunications capability over mobile is needed to satisfy consumer demands of high speed applications…The central importance of mobile broadband use in the United States will only increase…and [it] will play an increasingly important role in the future.” — Maxine Golding

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ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally. www.conferencedirect.com

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