I don’t envy providers of wi-fi at conferences. Nor do I envy anybody else in a risky business, even when they charge a good buck for it. But I do appreciate them. I forget the name of the outfit that provided wi-fi at PC Forum in days of yore, but they delivered the goods. Wi-fi nearly always worked there. Bravo to Esther and her suppliers. We miss them.
On the other hand, wi-fi at most conferences sucks rocks. There are all kinds of reasons, usually boiling down to demand hosing supply. Sometimes it’s because the hotel just doesn’t have the pipes for it. Sometimes it’s incompetence, equipment failure, software failure, or some combination of the three.
Last year at LeWeb here in Paris, the wi-fi failed on Day One, and worked on Day Two. While waiting for a plane afterwards (which I’m doing again now), I talked at some length to a young guy who worked with Swisscom, which provided the Net to LeWeb. He told me that they hadn’t anticipated all the iPhones that would be trying to connect at the same time as all the laptops.
This year I was told that Swisscom was again the supplier. But this time Day One and Day Two both sucked. Connectivity was occasional at best, and completely down at worst. I found it useless. The startup competition was hampered severly by it, since the companies couldn’t strut their stuff.
Some context: LeWeb was bigger this year, and I would guess that well over a thousand laptops and other devices were trying to get on and do stuff simultaneously, much of the time. Yet Swisscom no doubt promised to deliver, and Loic and crew had every right both to expect them to deliver — and to refuse payment should Swisscom fail.
I haven’t talked with Loic about this, but I would hope that he could collect damages for Swisscom’s failure. Because when you’re putting on a show caled LeWeb, your Net provider should guarantee that Le Web is available to attendees and participants. I dunno if Loic got that guarantee, but I hope he did. Because what happened was surely damaging to a bunch of people, including both attendees and organizers, who didn’t deserve it. They put on a great show.
Here are pix from Day One. I’ll put up Day 2 after I get back home to Boston.
[Later, now in Boston] Here’s LeWeb’s post on the same topic. Its bottom line: Nothing worked basically, it has been totally unprofessional and unacceptable from a major supplier such as Swisscom.