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Bring your own WiFi–the FCC fines Smart City $750,000!

USA Today (click here for story) reports that Smart City, a major internet and WiFi provider at trade shows across the country, has been fined $750,000 for jamming WiFi signals and forcing exhibitors to pay fees to use their own WiFi. “It is unacceptable for any company to charge consumers exorbitant fees to access the Internet while at the same time blocking them from using their own personal Wi-Fi hotspots to access the Internet,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the Federal Communication Commission’s enforcement bureau, in a news release”

NewLeads has fought this practice for several years and finally, thanks in large part to the hard work of exhibitor-rights advocate Ian Framson of Trade Show Internet (TSI), a provider of WiFi kits for exhibitors. The FCC investigated a TSI formal complaint and found Smart City to be in violation of jamming TSI customers in several instances. This is the second FCC crackdown on WiFi jamming in a year; the previous $750,000 fine was levied against Marriott nearly a year ago. Thanks and kudos to Ian Framson and TSI for taking the time and spending the money to fight this illegal practice, Please send him a congrats and your thanks to: ian@tradeshowinternet.com. Great job, Ian; this is a win for all exhibitors.

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Tradeshow Wireless Internet Pricing Rip-Offs–$3,500, REALLY??

You ask for Internet access in your hotel room; that’s $24 for 24 hours. Two computers? Double that. Need it on a plane? That’s $10 to $25 per flight. Seems pretty expensive until you order trade show wireless Internet as an exhibitor for your booth (cue the horror flick music).

How about five PC’s accessing the Internet for your booth? Are you sitting down?  Have you taken your blood pressure medicine today?  How about $3,500?  REALLY? Are you (insert your frustration-based adjective(s) here) kidding me? I wish I were kidding. It makes me feel good about that first text message bill for my daughter’s new cell phone many years ago. It was $200. Chump change by comparison.

There was a time not long ago when the only option to show labor was floor labor. You didn’t even think about screwing in your own light bulbs. There was a time when lead retrieval was also “take it or leave it” until NewLeads changed the game in 1996. And there was a time before we all had iPhones, Androids, iPads, personal Internet access points (MiFi) and broadband USB sticks.

The Berlin Wall in trade shows has already fallen, and show labor is no longer a monopoly. Lead retrieval is often substituted with third party vendors, and it’s high time for the “Wicked Wardens of WiFi” to step down and stop abusing exhibitors. Time for a Trade Show Spring. Time to use your own MiFi and broadband cards or choose a third party for Internet access. Time for some good old American capitalism to work in a free market where competition drives prices down and quality up.

Aside from the forklift driver services you buy that equate to $500 an hour (known as drayage), is there anything more egregiously priced than Internet access for your booth? If it makes you irate, you are a sane and rational person; if it doesn’t, consult your psychotherapist, rabbi or priest at the next possible juncture. Better yet, aim your frustration at the party that allows this to happen: your industry association or trade show organizer/owner.

For years, transparent pricing has been discussed in both HCEA and TSEA circles. And you know what is said about talk: It’s cheap. Lot’s of gab and no results. A long time ago, English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton declared, “The pen is mightier than the sword!” and American humorist Josh Billings declared (paraphrasing), “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This is about your anger turning to progress: writing a letter. Notice I did not state “email” or “phone call” or “face-to-face battle” or “grab a drink or a cup of coffee” (although that last one could be part of the plan in addition to the letter).

A letter–that old-fashioned thing that nobody writes anymore because email is ubiquitous–is all the more powerful today than it was ten years ago.  A well-worded letter sent registered mail will have a great impact. Individual letters from your colleagues will magnify the impact. Withdrawing your sponsorship from a trade show will make an even bigger statement. And while you’re at it, send a letter to the association that is purportedly representing your interests as an exhibitor or meeting planner. Can’t they spend some of those dues on advocacy? A letter is a powerful thing. Write it, send it registered mail, don’t accept the abuse any longer. And just think for a moment: what would you do with an extra $3,500?

Or you can just keep paying the Politburo.


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Warning: Lock It Down at Javits!

Warning: Lock It Down at Javits!

Security tip: Do not use personal employee laptops in your booth for any reason. Lead management systems or even a CRM are vital at trade shows for effectively communicating with attendees. However, don’t risk what may be very sensitive data that is typically stored on an employee’s laptop at the show. The Ponemon study estimates the loss of a laptop to cost as much as $50,000. The units used in your booth should be clean and contain no corporate data and no unencrypted show data (leads). If the system does get lost or stolen, the only thing you lose is the cost of the laptop.

Remember the Jacob Javits trade show swag motto for attendees: Anything that is not nailed down is considered free! And anything that can be easily pried up simply is not considered nailed down.