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Wi no Fi?

Wi no Fi? published on 3 Comments on Wi no Fi?

(From my original post on ReadWriteWeb, where you’ll see a fun comment thread)

OSCON has wrapped in sunny Portland, and with it the most ambitious conference wireless networking I’ve ever seen. Yet even here I heard attendees complaining about sluggish Wi-Fi… and organizers asking them not to download large files.

Now, there’s little question that OSCON is an edge case. Get a few thousand developers and software engineers together and you’re going to strain the bandwidth.

But every conference I’ve been to – every single one in the last four or five years – has had issues with Wi-Fi. And for that matter, nearly every hotel I’ve stayed at has also had issues with Wi-Fi. And I sometimes wonder if the issue is often less one of conference overload than one of facilities that invest as little as they need to to be able to say they offer Wi-Fi.

Then again, every conference and hotel I’ve been to has had at least one person who insists on downloading an OS upgrade or a movie to watch on the plane home. That would be, um, me.

The question is, when does conference Wi-Fi stop being about just checking email and maybe sharing some notes, and start being about allowing people to continue doing the heavy wireless lifting they do at home and at the office? Ever?


OSCON is not the only conference which concentrates heavy users of networks. Leaving aside your challenge that maybe we should not try to use the network so much, there's the issue of supplying more network capacity. I can recommend a couple of good pages for reading.

Serverfault, "Why is Internet access and Wi-Fi always so terrible at large tech conferences?". (Stories of what worked for PyCon 2009 and other places, and of what the issues are.)

TechCrunch, "TechCrunch50 Had Internet And Then Some. Mariette Systems FTW.". (What worked at TechCrunch50, Sept 2009.)

Thanks, Jim – those links give me hope that there's light (or at least bandwidth) at the end of the tunnel.

And in case it wasn't clear, I think asking people to restrict their use of the network is a stopgap measure at best. It's usually easy in these circumstances to soak up bandwidth in complete anonymity, so networks are probably destined to be maxed out until either the wireless providers get smarter about distributing bandwidth, or (and this is the solution I'm hoping for) they get serious about beefing it up.

Which, by the way, I wouldn't mind paying for – provided I was actually getting decent wireless, and not the hiccuping trickle that most hotels usually offer.

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