Robert Scoble writes about whether having a decent WiFi connection at a conference is something that important, and concludes that if you can afford the $3500 price tag to get in, you can also afford a $80 a month Verizon mobile data plan. Ethan Kaplan thinks it is important, and I agree, but for different motives.
What Robert fails to appreciate is, that while Web 2.0 may be more US-centered in terms of visitor origin, there are many conferences where the bulk of atendees come from abroad. In this case, it makes little sense to get into a Verizon plan just for the few days when you are visiting. Roaming data charges (when roaming data connections such as GPRS even work, which I found impossible around California) are astronomical.
I am in favor of event organizers providing a good quality, solid and stable WiFi connection, even though it can be very expensive. An example was the WOMMA conference at the San Francisco Hilton, which didn’t provide WiFi, as the hotel wanted $20.000 to put a router in the hall. However, a compromise between the two postulates would be for Verizon to offer a rent-a-card service. Just like I pick up my car at Hertz for a week at SFO, I could also pick up a Verizon card, use it while moving about, and return it at the airport before leaving the country. I can already hear critics saying “but people would just keep the cards” – maybe, but what good would they be to them? Additionally, just like you have a retainer placed on your credit card when you rent a car, the same could apply to the card, if you don’t return it, Verizon actually could make more money!