BYOB (bring your own bandwidth) is a non-negotiable requirement for conference presenters who use the Internet, and my experiences today at the University of Oklahoma confirmed this.
Today’s Oklahoma Distance Learning Association (ODLA) conference was a superb chance for learning and networking – and I do not share this post to in any way reflect negatively on on ODLA. The lack of WiFi connectivity today at our conference was NOT the fault of ODLA or ODLA organizers. I do, however, want to gripe about the presence of a “Guest WiFi” network on the campus of the University of Oklahoma which was essentially a FAKE. It did not work. No one at our conference could connect to it and get online. The separate WiFi network for University of Oklahoma employees, faculty, staff and students worked, but that was a DIFFERENT SSID and required a userid/password. To NOT have available wifi Internet access at a statewide distance learning and technology conference is a cardinal sin in 2010. (Hey, that rhymes!) Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this happen at an Oklahoma, statewide technology conference.
In February 2008, I had a similar experience as a spotlight speaker at the Oklahoma Technology Association‘s annual conference. See my post, “BYOB – Bring Your Own Bandwidth” for full details. In that case, Cox Communications had a WiFi network available with a “pay here with your credit card” option, but it in fact did not work. No one could get me an Internet connection (wired or wireless) to present in one of the main ballrooms of the Oklahoma City Cox Convention Center, for a presentation I was sharing about “Internet Search Strategies.” Even when I put my credit card information into the wireless system to pay, it didn’t work, and I was told by the Cox employees staffing the business center that “our wireless Internet network doesn’t work and can’t accept credit card payments.” So much for the opportunity to teach others about digital technologies at a statewide conference. This should have been a HUGE embarrassment for Cox Communications as a company, and the Cox Convention Center as the ONLY large convention center option in Oklahoma City with sufficient size to accommodate the OTA conference. (I don’t think anyone at Cox noticed my predicament or really cared, however, and that was unfortunate.) As you might be able to tell, the “sting” of that experience is still with me today. As a result of that experience, I invested in a 3G wireless networking card for my computer and have traveled with cell phone data connectivity for my computer ever since.
As I noted at the time, “The burn of a stove is a memorable instructor.” Thankfully, that lesson from 2008 served me well today at the University of Oklahoma at the K-20 Center. If I had not “brought my own bandwidth” in the form of a wireless tethering mobile phone, my second session about “Powerful Ingredients 4 Blended Learning” might have been a complete disaster. As it was, I was able to access the Internet on my computer thanks to my own cell phone, and the session seemed to go pretty well. The Internet speed wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but it DID WORK.
If the electricity had been out in our building on the University of Oklahoma campus, would there have been a team of people working without interruption to restore service? I am sure that would have been the case. Unfortunately, an outage of “guest Wifi access” did not trigger an intervention by an IT SWAT team at OU today.
Hopefully this situation can be remedied soon!
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