AFMattendees were left stranded without Internet access on day two of the marketas the Internet service in the Loews hotel guest rooms went down Thursdaymorning and wasn't planned to be operating fully until after the business dayended.
LoewsSanta Monica Beach Hotel manager John Thacker said that on Tuesday andWednesday, there were several problems with switches and routers. The lastrouter handling Internet traffic on Thursday morning failed. A largerreplacement router was scheduled to arrive at the Loews late Thursdayafternoon. By Friday morning, most companies should have access to the Internetbut could need troubleshooting with smaller problems.
Therewere 200 companies affected, pushing the number of users affected into thethousands.
'It'sbeen a real headache today and it will become a huge problem if they don't dosomething by the end of the day,' said one frustrated seller Thursday atlunchtime. 'It will stop us from being able to work. We've got contractsto access remotely and also need to be able to email colleagues and contactsabroad.'
AFMorganisers said that sentiment was shared by other exhibitors, who were alsothreatening to take further action if the problem wasn't fixed by Fridaymorning.
AFMmanaging director Jonathan Wolf of the IFTA said there hadn't been anydecisions from AFM management about financial rebates or any compensationmeasures. 'If someone calls us, our first response is that we're going touse our resources to fix the problem. We haven't discussed that issue yet [offinancial reimbursement to disgruntled exhibitors.]'
Thackerdid accept the blame on behalf of the hotel and said that the Loews should havebeen better prepared with more routers or a backup system.
Contraryto rumours, the problem wasn't caused by too much email or streaming videovolume. 'This isn't at all a bandwidth issue,' noted Wolf. 'Wehad two T1 lines last year and this year we have six T1 lines. The problem isthat the companies working in guest rooms can't connect to those lines throughthe routers.'
Internetaccess was still available in areas such as the buyer's lounge, and theexhibitors at Le Merigot hotel weren't affected.
Companiessaid the lack of email meant that they couldn't send messages such as pressreleases or attached memos or contracts, and they also couldn't get emailedlists of buyers who had attended market screenings. For those streaming filmfootage rather than showing on DVD, the problem was more serious.
Somesellers joked about moving to Starbucks for Internet access, but more seriouslynoted that they had to stay in the Loews for business and the lack of Internetwas a serious problem.
Thelack of communication about the situation and its resolution also causedheadaches. 'Usually [the Loews staff] are good but today they just keepsaying it's down and there's no idea when it will be back up,' said afrustrated exhibitor. The communication did improve when a letter wascirculated from Thacker explaining 'critical equipment failures' thatwere 'related solely to the operations systems of the hotel.'
Wolfsaid his staff shared the exhibitors' frustrations: 'We see everyone withthese long faces, and it's a shame because we have a staff of 300 and 70vendors all doing a great job, but they're all let down by this problem.'