As smartphones and tablet devices multiply, attendees and exhibitors need and expect good-quality Internet connectivity at their convention locations. But who should pay for it? The International Association of Exhibitions and Events has released the results of a new study that looks at the issues around Internet connectivity at exhibition centers.

IAEE surveyed show organizers, exhibitors, and facility managers and found a wide range of current practices, perceptions, and expectations.

In general, show organizers can safely assume that the exhibition facilities they’re considering will offer Wi-Fi, but it’s still a good idea to ask: Just two percent of the facilities surveyed don’t offer Wi-Fi. However, whether or not show organizers will be asked to pay for the Wi-Fi connection is not as clear cut. When IAEE asked facility managers if their buildings had free Wi-Fi throughout the building, free Wi-Fi in public spaces only, or no free Wi-Fi in public spaces, the percentage of respondents was nearly equal for each level of service.

When asked whether attendees should be provided with free Wi-Fi, show organizers and facility managers don’t see eye to eye. Ninety percent of show organizers say attendees should get free Wi-Fi whereas less than half (48 percent) of the facility managers see it that way.

Show organizers themselves are split about whether they and exhibitors should have to pay for this essential service. Forty-four percent think it should be free throughout the building; 11 percent think they should pay for it in meeting rooms and exhibit halls but not public spaces; and 37 percent expect to pay a reasonable cost throughout the building.

If show managers aren’t already negotiating Wi-Fi rates with facilities, they should be. More than four out of five facility managers (83 percent) report that they sometimes waive or renegotiate the posted Wi-Fi fees. At this point, three out of four show managers (76 percent) are already negotiating fees for Wi-Fi in meeting rooms and exhibition halls, and almost half (48 percent) would consider using a different facility if they couldn’t reach an agreement. According to IAEE’s research, just 34 percent of facility managers see Wi-Fi as a significant source of new revenue, while 66 percent say it’s an amenity that must be paid for to offset its cost.