Journalists At The US Presidential Debate Must Pay $260 For Wi-Fi

The first US presidential debate is today, and you can watch it for free. But for journalists piling into Hofstra University, the price of doing business has gotten steeper. Image: AP Photo/David Goldman

As per Hofstra's media rate sheet, a simple Wi-Fi connection for press will cost $US200 ($262). Word first got out when two journalists from Vocativ noticed this seemingly ridiculous fee. Want a phone line and a (presumably) faster ethernet connection? $US600 ($785). How about connecting an unlimited number of wireless devices? That will be $US3500 ($4582) thank you very much, and please remember to make those checks out to Hofstra.

Of course, this is largely business as usual for debates, although services and rentals have gotten more expensive since Hofstra hosted the 2012 debates. Some media outlets have bigger needs and cash to burn, so shelling out for furniture rentals, expensive internet or just a $US75 ($98) chair to sit in comes with the territory. But for any small-time bloggers looking to save a couple of bucks, Slate writer Jim Newell broke some sad news.

Newell added that Hofstra's enforcement of the no-dongle policy is uncertain, and it may in fact be illegal. A little over a year ago the FCC determined that companies blocking Wi-Fi hotspots is "patently unlawful" if it forces people to pay astronomical fees to access the internet.

We've reached out repeatedly to Hofstra and the Commission on Presidential Debates and will update if we hear back.

A tweet from Politico's Kenneth Vogel claims the press area is being searched for Wi-Fi hotspots using these nearly $US2000 ($2618) devices. (Presumably at least a dozen of them, based on the "aircheck 12" sticker?) Those poor dongles never stood a chance.

Vogel told Gizmodo in an email the Wi-Fi testers are being employed by CPD and that, "if people refuse to turn off their hot-spots, CPD representatives will be summoned to explain that, if they don't comply, their credentials will be revoked," according to a CPD technician he spoke to. He added that he's unsure how the $US200 ($262) paid Wi-Fi service is being limited to five devices per purchase, though some are speculating that it could be related to whitelisting specific MAC addresses.

Even with this limitation, it would appear that this very expensive Wi-Fi was not equipped to handle the network load. Who would have thought.

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