Many attendees of CES 2007 experienced a rude awakening Saturday when they discovered that The Venetian/Sands Expo Center was offering Wi-Fi access - for the outrageous price of $399.95 for two days.
According to the Web site for SEEnet, the Sands Expo and Convention Center's network, the fee for Wi-Fi access included $9.95 for 30 minutes of access, $39.95 for four hours of access, and then $399.95 for a two day period. Typically, most hotels these days charge around $10 to $12 for a full 24 hours of Internet access. Therefore, the price of Wi-Fi at the Sands represents an almost astronomical markup - around 600%. Media members were allowed to use limited broadband connections in the press room for free. However, most conference goers and exhibitors who were looking for affordable Internet access weren't so lucky.
How does the Sands Expo and Convention Center justify this outrageous rate? We weren't able to reach someone at the Sands Saturday, but we did find out that the Wi-Fi rates weren't jacked specifically for CES 2007 and that the convention center has been charging $399.95 for 48 hours of Wi-Fi at least as recently as 2005.
On the SEEnet welcome page, the Sands offers potential customers a brief message. Pay particular attention to the word "value" in the last sentence:
"Welcome! We are pleased that you have decided to use our high-speed Internet access solution utilizing Sands Expo and Convention Center's (SECC), advanced IP networking technology
Before you get online with the high-speed Internet connection, you must choose one of two methods to gain access. You can use the access code that was provided to you by your show manager or you can pay with a credit card and decide the length of time you want to be online. Follow the instructions on the main screen to choose which type of service you need. Enter information as requested on the registration screen provided. You will then be automatically registered and will have access to the Internet to send and receive your Internet e-mail, surf the Web or use any VPN applications that do not require the use of a dial-up phone line. You DO NOT need an Internet account with any ISP to use this system. We hope you find this exciting new service of value and another reason to patronize our property.
-Sands Internet Department"
We here at TG Publishing knew the cost of Wi-Fi had increased, but this is rather ridiculous. At a gigantic conference like CES, the only thing that could make it harder for people to do their jobs than absurdly expensive Internet access would be having no access at all. But with Wi-Fi access at one of the biggest hubs for CES costing more than most hotels this week, we might as well be living in the Dark Ages.