Mark Twain once said that the key to success in life is proper selection of your parents. Opryland USA has its own corollary: the key to success in hotel connectivity is to be owned by a company that owns television stations. In fact, just about every big television network has originated broadcasts from Gaylord Entertainment's Opryland USA at one time or another.

Interestingly, planners have not exactly rushed to take advantage of the property's broadcast-quality earth station (equipment used for satellite communications), according to Gregg Hicks, Opryland's director of telecommunications. "We don't do a tremendous amount of video here--probably a few times a month," he says. "We can uplink to satellite . . . no problem."

All This and Smart Rings, Too If planners haven't flocked to exploit Opryland's video capabilities, it may be because they're already taken with its networking prowess. Start with the road in and out: "We have two T1 lines between our facility and the Internet, operated by two different phone companies," says Hicks. "We can--and do--switch back and forth depending on the service required." Best of all, for those who appreciate the value of redundant systems, each line is a "smart ring," which means the phone line comes into one side of the hotel, passes out the other side and into a central office, then back to the hotel again. If any portion of the land line breaks, the smart ring reroutes service automatically.

Because the hotel's indoor space is measured in acres rather than square feet, it connects meeting spaces via fiber-optic cable, so networked data can travel up to a mile with no degradation. Including the copper wire, Hicks conservatively estimates that there are 500 miles of cable under the hotel's roof.

Organizers can connect as many as 400 PCs ("We haven't found our upper limit yet," says Hicks) to the hotel's network or to their home network, or connect via the hotel's T1 lines to the Internet. A meeting doesn't have to be huge to take use Opryland's capabilities. "We can run multiple private networks and assure security," says Hicks.

And although many conference managers don't believe it, the Opryland crew is knowledgeable about networking. "Many clients bring their own routers because they've been burned so many times by hotels that promise data connectivity but turn out to have only voice-grade copper lines," says Hicks.

On-Site ISP The same applies to Internet service. A big expense for exhibitors is connectivity, often with a Internet Service Provider (ISP) they know nothing about. "A large part of the cost and concern is the ISP order," says Ken Russell, vice president and co-owner of ISDN-Net, Inc., the Nasville-based ISP that serves Opryland. "It can take a lot of coordination to bring a circuit into the Internet. That can be a big risk." With Russell's service already in place, that risk goes away.

Russell isn't afraid to take on big projects, either. A major industrial controls corporation wanted its chairman to use Ethernet connections to start up a remote assembly line--while being broadcast live over the Internet from his office in Chicago to the exhibit floor in Nashville. It was, according to Russell, "a mammoth project," involving hundreds of miles of dedicated T1 lines between Chicago and Nashville.

With 2,883 guest rooms and 600,000 square feet of meeting space, the Opryland Hotel can take on some mighty large events for a single facility. With the expertise of Gaylord Entertain-ment and ISDN-Net behind it, it's ready to meet mighty large connectivity needs, too.

Coming to Florida Gaylord Entertainment announced in July that the Osceola, Fla. County Commission had approved a financing package for development of a 1,400-room hotel and convention center in Osceola, near Orlando. To be called Opryland Hotel-Florida, the property will combine convention and entertainment venues under one roof as part of a 400-acre project called Xentury City.