Clear Operator Guidance, Not Pricing Debate, Needed From FCC

A note from Mark Haley, President of Smart City Networks:


An article recently published by the New York Times highlights the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its efforts to halt the practice of blocking WiFi in hotels and convention centers. In the article, the author compares the cost of a single hotspot for four to six devices with a $30,000 quote for an exhibit hall buyout supporting thousands of connections and implies that the two expenses are the same. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. It would be the same as comparing a basket of apples to an entire grove of apple trees.

At Smart City, we sell individual hotspots in our convention centers as low as $48 per day. If the exhibit hall wireless buyout that was quoted in the story was scheduled to run for three days (the duration of the average tradeshow) and cover 2,000 attendees (a very small event by industry standards), the cost per day for a wireless connection would be $5.00 per person.

We understand that in their search for ways to minimize costs during events, event planners often don’t look at the value of a wireless buyout. Event planners should consider the value of a wireless buyout that can connect all of their attendees and exhibitors to one safe, reliable network. Additionally, savvy event planners are reselling their wireless buyout to an event sponsor for a profit and integrating mobile apps and other location-based services to enhance the overall attendee experience.

The issue raised by this article and the FCC’s ruling is not that of price, regardless of the FCC’s attempts to spin it that way. The real issue at hand is how wireless enterprise operators, such as M.C. Dean, Smart City, or hotels, can efficiently and effectively manage the unlicensed WiFi spectrum in venues. The ultimate goal is to allow for the greatest number of visitors to safely connect to the internet, whether with their own device or to the venue’s wireless network. We need clear guidance from the FCC on this issue other than after-the-fact enforcement proceedings.