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How the Democratic convention is getting wired

Qwest, Cisco Systems, Symantec, and others are providing the technical infrastructure for the Democrats this week in Denver at one of the most tech-heavy political conventions ever.

It will take more than a whoppingly huge stadium to host tens of thousands of party insiders, journalists, and bloggers who began arriving in Denver this weekend for the Democratic convention.

Even though actual news may be scarce, attendees are nevertheless hauling along laptops, cell phones, wireless cards, and innumerable other gadgets, all of which will place a severe severe strain on the city's communication infrastructure.

To handle the increased demand, the Democrats have enlisted the support of Qwest, Cisco Systems, and other companies to upgrade the technical infrastructure at the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field.

Working with two large facilities made the logistics of the convention more challenging, said Damon Jones, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Convention Committee, or DNCC. "We essentially had to duplicate a lot of the infrastructure," he said.

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, is scheduled to accept his party's nomination at Invesco Field. It's the home of the Denver Broncos and is capable of holding around 75,000 people--far more than the Pepsi Center about a mile away.

As part of its planning process, the DNCC created a Technology Advisory Council, made up of representatives from Qwest, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, AT&T, Level3, Comcast, EchoStar, Hewlett-Packard, Symantec, as well as Denver city officials and Colorado state officials.

"We wanted to reach out to the best folks in the business on what we'd like to see as a forward-looking technology strategy on everything from how to get more people engaged to information and data security," Jones said. "The TAC has been a way for us to pull best practices from the private and public sectors."

Qwest Communications is laying the groundwork for wireline voice and data services for the four-day event in Denver. The aggregate data capacity of its network is about 50 billion bits per second--fast enough to transmit an entire HD movie in just a few seconds.

"We built a brand new network because the network in place (at the Pepsi Center) could not handle the demand," said Rick Mabry, Qwest's director of network operations for the Democratic convention. "We started by building a structure in the Pepsi Center, which is essentially a main office, and went underground to feed to customers."

The upgrades required approximately 3,344 miles of single strands of fiber and 140 miles of single strands of copper and coaxial cable.

Qwest also added approximately 2,600 additional data lines and 3,400 voice grade circuits to serve both the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field. Both venues are installed with video equipment with the capacity to to handle 130 simultaneous video feeds.

Working with two large facilities made the logistics of the convention more challenging, said Damon Jones, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Convention Committee. "We essentially had to duplicate a lot of the infrastructure," he said.

Live Video
Additional groundwork was laid by Level 3, the official "Live Video and Content Delivery Services Provider" for the convention. The company installed more than five miles of fiber optic cable to connect both the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field to its network.

In addition to providing High-Definition and analog video feeds to broadcast networks at both main venues, Level 3 will provide live streaming coverage of the event at (CNET News is taking similar steps in cooperation with

Network solutions
As the official "Network Solutions Provider" for the Democratic convention, Cisco is providing what it refers to as unified platforms for voice, video, data, and mobile applications for the convention staff. "As an example, DNCC's staff will be able to move among (venue locations like Invesco Field and the Hyatt Hotel at the convention center) with their Cisco IP phones as they relocate depending on their changing functions," said Cisco spokesperson Jennifer Greeson.

The company is providing wireless technology for both data and voice coverage in Denver. It is also supplying digital signage throughout the facilities and on-site support services.

Cellular networks are getting a boost as well: major carriers like AT&T and Verizon have been upgrading their wireless coverage around the convention venues.

Symantec is the official "Information Security Software Provider" for the Democratic convention. In terms of security at the Democratic convention, "we are taking all of the steps that people would expect us to take," Jones said, sounding a bit like the Secret Service. "But we're not going to talk a lot about them."

A number of companies like Cisco, Qwest and Microsoft will support network security. "We've added firewalls in place, and we've got equipment in place to capture any kind of attacks," Mabry said of Qwest's network.

Once the conventions are over, all the copper laid for the event will be pulled and recycled or reused, Mabry said.