Like Water for Wi-Fi: an Event Manifesto

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At every event I’ve ever attended, tap water has been free while bottled water usually costs money.

I propose that organizers supply Wi-Fi like water at events.

These days, event Wi-Fi is a utility. People need to be able to be connected online, even when they are physically together in the same space. I know that providing Wi-Fi costs money—but so does providing water.

I believe that event organizers should, at a minimum, provide base level rate limited free Wi-Fi throughout the meeting spaces of the venue, plus an optional paid higher-performance tier of service.

The free Wi-Fi would be rate limited to somewhere in the region of 100-300kB/sec per device, irrespective of the number of devices each attendee brought. The paid tier would provide a higher bandwidth, appropriate to attendee needs.

How much would this cost? HotelChatter’s 2012 Wi-Fi Report states:

“…for a 250-room hotel, the cost is about $2.50-$4.50 per room, per month.”

This infographic breaks down the costs, which work out to 10-15 cents a day. That’s $20-30/day for an event with 200 attendees. (At this point you may be wondering why some hotels charge $14.95/day for internet access per device. This is called “making money hand over fist”.)

None of this is hard any more. Rate limiting internet bandwidth for individual users is simple due to the incorporation of Quality of Service (QoS) policies in modern inexpensive routers and access points. You don’t even need two sets of access points for different bandwidth tiers; you can support multiple discrete Wi-Fi networks on a single access point (VLANs). Finally, ramping up bandwidth and reliability for high-demand events is now relatively straightforward because most systems support bandwidth aggregation, allowing bandwidth to be obtained from more than one circuit from multiple internet service providers.

Attendees don’t expect events to provide high bandwidth internet access for free (though they’ll love you if you do). But, like a tap to fill your water bottle, bandwidth that’s sufficient for basic tasks like checking email, interacting on social media and light web browsing should be available for free at every event.

Like Water for Chocolate Wi-Fi. That’s my manifesto.

Want to join me—or am I dreaming? What do you think?

Photo attribution: Flickr user waitingpictures