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Sundance attendance strains connectivity in Park City

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Jan. 23, 2012 at 7:03 p.m.


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PARK CITY -- When 45,000 filmmakers, film buffs and film wannabees get together in one small place, with all their cell phones and electronic devices, something has to give.

It's a new reality; celebrities and everyone else are carrying so many electronic devices it creates challenges for the wireless companies. Everywhere you turn there's a cell phone, a laptop or a tablet computer.

"All those people are carrying not just one, but sometimes two or three media devices." Said Erik Varney of Verizon Wireless.

It's almost like a fashion statement. Never leave home without your connectivity. The L'oreal Beauty Team has theirs right out front. When you're setting up press interviews for a new movie, using a sidewalk for an office, you have to believe in your connectivity.

"I do get a lot of dropped calls. But that just might be my network. The data is the biggest issue - that my phone numbers, my emails, never go through," said Lauren Bobbitt who represents the new film, "Compliance. Seconds later, she had to take a call.

Submit your own Sundance photos

"Data use has exploded," Varney said. Part of Varney's job is to make sure Verizon has enough bandwidth available to keep Sundance customers connected.

"Complete data connectivity, from finding your location and uploading video streams and doing text messaging and video messaging and picture messaging," said "Cellphones make life very convenient and certainly for me, here in Park City, I've had no problem using the cellphones so far," said Ross Bradder, a documentary film producer. But others have had some troubles, especially with data.

"Emails and text messages have been delayed for a few hours, yesterday." Said Lisa Gutberlet with Film Production Sales

AT&T beefed up their bandwidth by bringing in three COWS, or Cellsite On Wheels. Verizon, on the other hand, planned ahead with the necessary hardware all year round. But they do have to tweak their software to meet Sundance demand.

"Events like this that happen, we make sure that we've engineered our network to handle the capacity when it peaks out, when there's a lot of people on the street trying to make phone calls and taking pictures of Justin Timberlake, or whoever might show up that week," Varney said.

For those who don't see celebrities, well, they just shoot the street and send that home too.

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John Hollenhorst

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