Unconventional circumstances

This month, the most powerful members of the nation's Democratic Party converge upon the FleetCenter in Boston for the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC).

This month, the most powerful members of the nation's Democratic Party converge upon the FleetCenter in Boston for the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC). As the momentum and the excitement build for Democrats throughout the country, many believe it is fate, not coincidence, that the party will nominate a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts with the initials JFK.

At the same time, I can't help but wonder if it's fate or coincidence that two distinct issues stemming from the convention's Beantown location have implications on communications cabling—one directly and one indirectly.

Let me start with the indirect connection. Because of security concerns, Route I-93, the highway that is almost literally within arm's reach of the FleetCenter, will be closed for several miles from early afternoon through the evening each night of the convention. For those who are unfamiliar with Boston's roadways: 1) you probably don't realize how lucky you are; 2) no need to feel bad, because most people who regularly drive on the city's roadways also are unfamiliar with them; and 3) Route I-93 is the only North-South highway that goes through the city.

The planned shutdown of I-93 will have a tidal wave effect, not a ripple effect, on secondary streets within Boston and in the several municipalities in the immediate vicinity. Many of the companies that will be affected by this commuting nightmare were still trying to figure out a workable strategy a little more than a month before the convention. Alternate working hours, forced vacation time, and telecommuting appear to be the most-discussed options.

It surprises no one to hear that telecommuting is the most popular choice among the employee population. It will be technologically feasible for some organizations, but not all. In many cases, it's the corporation, not the employee population, that is unequipped for remote working.

Because only a small portion of employees telecommutes on a regular basis, many companies cannot accommodate a nearly full population dialing in for e-mail and network connections. As for the employees, a DSL or cable-modem connection at home is more than adequate to access the corporate network and complete work—including file transfer—at or very near the same speed with which it is accomplished at the office.

Previously, I have used this space to contend that it will be entertainment, not work, that will drive residential-cabling market growth. But now I'm using this example to pile on a bit.

The second cabling-related issue surrounding the Democratic National Convention is political, and one that I hope will be just as invisible to the national audience as the traffic snafu. Boston's police patrolmen's union has been in a contract dispute with Mayor Thomas Menino for a of couple of years. Menino is a Democrat, and landing the 2004 DNC was a major score for him.

The patrolmen's union gained local headlines when it began an informational picket outside the FleetCenter as construction was about to begin in preparation for the convention. The purpose of the picket line: to discourage union workers from entering the facility, thereby stalling convention preparations and pressuring the mayor back to the bargaining table.

A group of union electrical workers, who are scheduled to install temporary communications systems to serve the convention, honored the police patrolmen's intention and did not cross the picket line. So, the voice and data system installation is behind schedule before it begins. Meanwhile, the mayor and the policemen are still arguing.

Honestly, I expect the late start to be hardly a blip on the radar screen, if that. After all, when was the last time you worked on a project that didn't require you to do too much work in too little time?

From what I understand, the convention will be quite a multimedia event, with appearances via satellite and audio-video effects galore. If the unthinkable happens and one of the audio or video presentations goes down, I can think of three people who will wonder if it was due to a rushed cabling job: you, me, and Mayor Menino.

Patrick McLaughlin
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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