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Racing to Wi-Fi: Will Richmond's Wireless Networks Take a Big Hit During the Bike Race? 

click to enlarge The Greater Richmond Convention Center is the site of work designed to increase Internet connectivity in the downtown area, scheduled to be completed in time for the UCI Road World Championships.

Scott Elmquist

The Greater Richmond Convention Center is the site of work designed to increase Internet connectivity in the downtown area, scheduled to be completed in time for the UCI Road World Championships.

Verizon is rushing to install hardware and software that will boost Wi-Fi connectivity in Richmond ahead of the UCI Road World Championships. The upgrades are spurred by the convention center and race organizer Richmond 2015.

“It’s a difficult subject to address right now,” says Michael Meyers, general manager at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. “We’re down to the wire with [Verizon’s] needs and how to meet those needs. It’s shaping up to be significant what’s going to be provided.”

A surge of local, national and international media, along with thousands of spectators, will need more than the typical capacity, depending on a successful completion of the upgrades.

The convention center’s agreement with Verizon is to construct a permanent rooftop antenna, Meyers says, which will increase Wi-Fi capacity in the downtown area. It’s been planned for a year and isn’t directly related to the bike race, he says, but it’s scheduled to go live at the time of the race.

Meyers said he was obligated to not release other details of the agreement. And Verizon spokeswoman Melanie Ortel says “we do not provide information around the costs of these efforts.”

Richmond 2015 is buying bandwidth for a temporary television compound outside the convention center, which will be used by international media. Marketing and communications director Lee Kallman says Richmond 2015 will need bandwidth for its own remote video footage, some of which will be sent wirelessly. Richmond 2015 will have a full production crew on the ground next to other media organizations, he says.

Verizon is in the process of deciding how to deploy temporary Wi-Fi enhancements for Richmond in time for the races, Ortel says. Asked whether Verizon is trying to gauge the extent of increased Internet traffic, she declines to provide specifics.

Visitors and journalists will be dependent on the planned bandwidth boost inside the convention center, too, which will feature a closed-circuit Jumbotron and a media operations center.

Race spokesman Paul Shanks adds that Richmond 2015 has created an app that will allow smartphone users to watch the race on their phones, if they can access a Wi-Fi network.

Verizon reps suggest that the downtown area needs better connectivity, saying that the upgrades are part of a “sustained network investment plan” for Richmond.

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