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MCCA set to OK $2.3m for computers, data networks

Visitors to the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, scheduled to open next summer, will get high-speed wireless Internet access and a state of the art software system that automatically configures laptop computers to work with the building's network.

The board of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is expected to approve $2.3 million for the installation of its computers and data networks today as construction of the South Boston building enters its last phase.

Although the spending must be approved, the money is already earmarked for technology in the center's $800 million construction budget. The convention board is already soliciting proposals from companies for four contracts, including $1.2 million to wire the center's high-speed Internet network and a $204,000 contract to build a wireless network that will let conventioneers get online anywhere in the facility.

The projects should put the new center on par with other convention centers that were recently built or upgraded, said Steve Snyder, chief information officer for the authority.

"Doing this now will mean we have everything we need built in, and we won't have to come back and upgrade in five years," he said.

Another $200,000 will be spent to buy 68 desktop computers for the center's staff and a $400,000 contract will be handed out to test all the systems before the center's opening. Another $200,000 is allocated for software, which will be bought from the state's exclusive software vendor, ASAP Software of Buffalo Grove, Ill.

All the contracts will be awarded within three weeks, and the installations should be complete by May 4, Snyder said.

Some other recently-built convention centers have poured more into their technology expenditures. The new Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., had a $4.25 million technology budget before opening in March, for example.

Some others have had to upgrade recently. The Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia spent $2 million on its technology infrastructure when it opened in 1993. In 1998, it got a $1.3 million upgrade for high-speed Internet access and later a $60,000 wireless Internet network was installed.

Next January, the Philadelphia building will get a $450,000 voice-over-Internet telephone system, according to Don Krick, the center's director of technology services.

Keith Reed can be reached at reed@globe.com.

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