Reporters covering tonight’s presidential debate from Long Island’s Hofstra University were met with an unwelcome surprise: Just to get online with a basic WiFi connection from the debate venue costs $200, as confirmed by Business Insider reporters on the scene.
Worse yet, Hofstra has warned journalists over a loudspeaker not to use any personal WiFi hotspots, like Verizon’s Jetpack or the Karma — and, according a tweet from
Politico’s Kenneth Vogel, Hofstra is actually sending people around with hand-held to search for the offending hotspots and disable them.
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) September 26, 2016
Charging journalists for a WiFi connection at the debates isn’t a new practice, though Hofstra demanded less at the 2012 debates. And judging from these reports, it seems like Hofstra has gotten more aggressive this time out about enforcing a ban on personal WiFi devices.
You can iew Hofsftra’s rate card for media services at the debate here. In addition to the $200 WiFi, Hofstra is charging $325 for a tethered internet connection, or $600 for the wired internet plus a landline telephone. For a mere $3,500, you can have a team of up to 20 all get onto the WiFi with unlimited devices between them.
These prices are clearly geared towards larger news outlets, but it definitely puts a pinch on anybody without a mega-media organisation’s credentials. And, as Gizmodo points out, it could be illegal to essentially force reporters (or anybody) to forego their own WiFi equipment and hold them hostage for the higher-cost connections at the venue.
Hofstra did not immediately respond to a request for comment.