Meeting Mentor Magazine

October 2017

New Guidelines for Wi-Fi At Convention Venues

With wireless devices proliferating among attendees and exhibitors, network operators at many venues are challenged to provide secure, reliable, fast wireless networks for conventions and trade shows. There’s only so much bandwidth available and when too many devices are operating at the same time, service is degraded for all.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stepped in more than once in the last two years to fine wireless network operators at U.S. convention venues, saying they could not manage venue networks by “deauthenticating” or jamming the the internet service of anyone using an outside Wi-fi network, whether it be from a cell phone or a router.

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Essentially, the FCC told network operators what they couldn’t do to manage networks but didn’t tell them what they could do, said Mark Haley, president of Smart City, one of the companies cited by the FCC. That left venue operators “walking on eggshells” on how to manage wireless networks without violating FCC rules, Haley explained in an article in VenuesToday.

To rectify the situation, the International Association of Venues Managers (IAVM) formed a group to work with the FCC. As a result, this summer IAVM announced “Common Sense Rules for Public Venues,” a set of guidelines that largely depend on volunteer actions by attendees and exhibitors. Among the best practices in the report:

• Anyone entering the convention or trade show venue should turn off the Wifi and Bluetooth broadcasting features of all their wireless devices. This will enhance the wireless experience for the entire community in the convention center.

• Because high-power wireless devices may interfere with many other wireless users, wireless device that require continuous connection to an electric outlet are prohibited.

• Only one channel per user is permitted. The latest WiFi protocols allow users to combine or bond multiple channels. But that may significantly degrade other attendees’ ability to use the common wireless network.

• Attendees and exhibitors are asked not to use peer-to-peer traffic applications (such as Bit Torrent) or engage in other activities that consume a disproportionately large amount of bandwidth and wireless network resources.

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For more information on the guidelines, contact amy.fitzpatrick@iavm.org. — Regina McGee

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