Convention authority ousts Smart City Networks, chooses Cox Nevada Telcom

14 August 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Smart City Networks was replaced Tuesday by Cox Nevada Telcom as the main provider of telecommunication services for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, marking the end of a 15-year partnership.

The seven-year contract with Cox was approved by all 14 board members except Chairman Tom Collins, who also is a county commissioner.

Cox is now responsible for maintaining networks for all trade shows that use the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Cashman Center.

The company will spend $12.5 million to install antennas linked to a common source at the convention center, subject to negotiations with carriers. It’s planning to use InSite Wireless Group for the design, construction and installation of the system, which should be finished in three years. Cox is a partial owner in InSite. The winning proposal also included a $9.5 million capital investment in technology that will enable direct connections from the convention center and Cashman Center to a fiber optic network and expanded Wi-Fi. Cox promised a Wi-Fi connection speed of 10 gigabits per second versus Smart City’s promised 4.6 gigabit speed.

During shows, Cox will subcontract with showNets to provide on-site services. Although based in Arizona, showNets plans to hire 24 Las Vegas-based employees to service the Las Vegas Convention Center. Smart City had 22 employees working there.

Although it came in second, Smart City didn’t go down without a fight. The company’s president, Mark Haley, attended the meeting with lobbyists Chris Kaempfer and former U.S. Senator Richard Bryan. Haley pointed out that showNets and Cox, a 100-year-old company, may not have a lot of trade show experience.

“They’ll essentially be cutting their teeth on your clients,” Haley told the board.

Smart City didn’t subcontract any work.

The new contract with Cox provides for an initial seven-year term with an optional three-year extension. The authority will receive 46 percent of the gross revenue for telecom services at the convention center and Cashman, the same as it would have with Smart City. At least 3 percent of gross revenues will be placed in a fund controlled by the travel authority for future technology upgrades.

The authority uses a request-for-proposal process to select its vendors, who then are graded by selection criteria: relevant experience, pricing and revenue share, infrastructure management and customer service approach. Thirteen authority staff members spent more than 500 hours reviewing three companies over 18 months. AT&T placed third in the process.

At the beginning of the standing-room-only meeting attended by 200 people, Collins tried to strike the item from the agenda altogether. He cited a need for more information but quickly was overruled by a majority board vote.

At one point while the board was talking, Haley closed his eyes, seemingly in frustration.

“Coming in second by four points, that has to be painful,” vice chair and Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said. “I feel for you Mark, I feel for you to have to stand here and go through this today.”

Member George Rapson acknowledged ending any long-term relationship is hard, but he said he doesn’t want to endure a month-long lobbying effort. Tom Jenkin echoed his sentiment.

“I believe delaying opens up the board to undue influence and swaying. Unless we think (the authority staff) is incompetent or didn’t do their job right ... ” Jenkin said.

Cam Walker pointed out that Smart City came in second 15 years ago, and through a delay in voting and lobbying, was able to secure the contract with the authority.

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