Steve Dembo’s June 2nd post to the NECC 2008 conference Ning, “Stream and be streamed,” generated quite a bit of discussion. One of the most interesting issues raised by commenters, in my view, was Brian Crosby’s remark about bandwidth in light of MANY impromptu, expected streaming sessions at NECC 2008. Brian wrote:

One thought … it seems to me that last year the wifi [AT NECC 2007 IN ATLANTA] was getting maxed out pretty regularly … I’m not sure of the reasons besides 13,000 attendees … but I remember some speculation on the Skype-chatting and just Skyping of presos that was occurring. That was new stuff last year and with the addition of Ustream and other bandwidth heavy apps might that not be an issue? Not trying to throw cold water on this … I think it’s a great idea … do we know if the wifi will be “broader” this year? Am I off base with this concern?

I wonder what the total bandwidth available on the public WiFi connection for NECC 2008 attendees will be? It would be VERY interesting to see a realtime graph of that bandwidth and its utilization published on the conference website somewhere using InterMapper or a similar bandwidth monitoring tool. It would be very interesting to not only monitor available and utilized conference bandwidth during the conference, but also look at the utilization stats and graphs following each day to see when they peak and ebb.

It will also be interesting to see what type of “smart network” technology will or will not be utilized on the NECC 2008 public WiFi network to limit or control bandwidth utilization. As Brian points out, if lots of people open up Ustream or other video broadcasts of sessions during the conference then the available bandwidth could be sapped quickly. This scenario reminds me of a story Alton Fields, superintendent of Pleasanton Schools outside San Antonio, told a group of administrators about their rollout of iBook laptops to their high school students several years ago. As soon as the students got their iBooks up and running, TONS of them logged into iChat and immediately started opening up audio and video chat connections. The school network at the time could not handle the traffic, so an administrator had to get on the PA system and ask all students to NOT use iChat for audio or videoconferencing at that time. I wonder if we’ll see a comparable scenario unfold at NECC this year? Hopefully not.

I’m going to BYOB this year to NECC. If the conference WiFi network is configured to block Ustream (which it certainly could be) then those attendees bringing their own bandwidth may be the only ones able to successfully live-stream. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Regardless of the public WiFi configuration, I’m betting NECC 2008 is certain to stretch conference bandwidth limits to the limit– at least at some point! Hopefully the bandwidth available to conference attendees will be able to scale to meet demand!

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