Republican Convention bloggers: Qwest has a big surprise for you

posted at 4:58 pm on July 31, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, I received my confirmation for my credentials to the Republican National Convention, and at first I was pretty excited. After all, I was one of the handful who blogged from the convention in 2004 at Madison Square Garden, and as I wrote yesterday, this time they designed us right into the venue. We have great seats, great view, and equal status with the mainstream media. How equal? Well … bear with me and read to the end, because it does get somewhat better as this goes along.

The welcome letter instructed me to contact Qwest in order to arrange any needed voice or Internet services, and they provided a helpful link to an on-line ordering process — as well as the rates for the service.  It took me nearly an hour to pick my jaw up off of the floor after reading it:

Qwest will provide high-speed Internet access via an Ethernet connection within the Convention Complex.

This service is for public Internet access only. This service does not provide any security capabilities or protections. The customer should ensure that any computers connected are properly protected and secured.

Qwest will provide the customer with a RJ45 plug for each 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps service and a fiber optic SC/PC connector for each 1 Gbps service. The service does not provide any hardware or cabling beyond the plug. The RJ45 cabling provided will be approximately 6ft in length.

  • 10 Mbps (Dedicated) – $850.00
  • 100 Mbps (Dedicated) – $7,650.00
  • 1 Gbps (Dedicated) – $53,550.00

That’s for four days of Internet service. Four days.  My son doesn’t pay that much a month in rent.

Now that was the bad news, obviously, but there is some good news.  I contacted the convention’s press office this morning and asked them about this, and they promised to send me a statement about this issue.  It explains that bloggers do have other options:

Internet access is available to all media outlets, including bloggers, in several ways.  Some will choose to purchase hard-wired access, others will choose to use their own wireless Internet card, and all will have hard-wired access at no cost in our state-of-the-art press filing center.

Within the Xcel Energy Center, drastic steps are being taken to provide the utmost accessibility for all members of the media.  Cellular bandwidth has been increased by unprecedented proportions compared to what was offered in past conventions and cellular providers are increasing their coverage capabilities to accommodate expected rise in usage.

In talking with the convention people, they emphasized the amount of bandwidth that wireless carriers would be adding to the Xcel Center.  They expect no slowdowns for Blackberries and wireless Internet cards despite the thousands of people who will attend.  Further, bloggers who cannot adequately access the Internet from their reserved seats can use the Media Filing Center at no charge, where the RNCC will provide free ad-hoc access for the media, which includes bloggers as equals.

In fact, this is actually a side effect of the equality in which the Republicans have treated bloggers as media representatives.  What we have been offered is the exact same price structure and services offered to the traditional media outlets.  Networks and newspapers pay these rates as a cost of doing business and probably didn’t blink at the menu.  Qwest has a captive market, and they’re taking full advantage of it.

Unfortunately, bloggers don’t have the same kind of deep pockets that other media outlets do.  Most of them will spend at least a thousand dollars on flights, hotels, and meals, and perhaps rental cars.  When they see an $850 price tag for dedicated hard-line access, it’s possible that many or most of them will simply skip the event.

Personally, I think the RNCC should have footed the bill for Internet connectivity to Blogger’s Row, which they did in 2004, but there were a lot fewer of us in New York City.  We have argued for equality, though, and this is one of the less pleasant aspects of it.  At least other options exist — so if you have already looked at the price and are thinking about canceling, don’t let it stop you.  Pick up an air card through your cell service and that should keep you blogging without breaking the bank.

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