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IETF 108 Registration Fees

27 May 2020

Explaining why we will charge for IETF 108 Online registration and how we set the fees.

Until now, we have charged only for in-person participation in an IETF meeting while online participation in an in-person IETF meeting has been free of charge. With entire meetings moving online and the possibility that this may continue for a while, we have had to consider if we need to charge for online meetings and if so, what level the fee should be set at. The conclusion, as explained in this post, is that we need to charge a registration fee and at a level that is approximately one-third that charged for an in-person meeting, as follows:

Early Bird $230
Standard $280
Late $330
One Day Pass $125
Full Time Student $50

While the IETF LLC is generously supported by the Internet Society, our Global Hosts, and meeting sponsors, that support is not sufficient to cover all of our annual operational costs and so we have for many years charged for meetings to cover both the cost of those meetings and some of our general operational costs. The predecessor to the IETF LLC explained this long-standing practice and the basis on which they set the fee back in 2015.

This spreading of costs in the IETF LLC budget is shown in the meetings budget, where one-third of the annual cost of the Secretariat and some NOC costs are assigned to each meeting.  This means that the expenses in our budget per meeting are higher than the direct costs of operating the meeting itself, which may cause some confusion.  The IETF LLC is considering options for changing this accounting mechanism to provide greater transparency about costs, but even then we would still need to cover those costs somehow and so it might not have any impact on registration fees.

With that understood, our meeting budget for the in-person IETF 108 in Madrid was:

Registration Fees $780,000 Meeting Support (Labor, Travel, Misc) $431,560
Sponsorship $417,550 NOC Support, Hosting, Connectivity $356,518
Other (Venue Related) $140,148 Venue Costs $490,148
Other (Bank Fees, Misc) $87,172
TOTAL $1,337,698 TOTAL $1,365,398

Note: This is slightly different from the budget published in January as some corrections have been made, which will be shared when a full reforecast is published later this year.

This would have produced a deficit of $27,700 for IETF 108.  The same budget shows a surplus of $15,501 for IETF 107 and a deficit of $101,043 for IETF 109.  It should be noted that our meetings budgets do not target either a surplus or deficit, we just aim to balance our overall budget.  

If we reforecast for IETF 108 taking into account the switch to an online meeting then the expenses are:

EXPENSES In-Person Online
Meeting Support (Labor, Travel, Misc) $431,560 $295,360
NOC Support, Hosting, Connectivity $356,518 $191,629
Venue Costs $490,148 -
Other (Bank Fees, Misc) $87,172 $28,156
TOTAL $1,365,398 $515,145

As noted above, $515,145 is much higher than the direct cost of running an online meeting due to the way we spread some operational costs.

In order to budget for an income that recovers this reduced cost, we considered reducing both the registration fee income and the sponsorship income.  We chose to reduce the registration fee income more than we reduced the sponsorship income as we feel the change to online from an in-person meeting has less of an impact on sponsors than it does on participants.  For example, the nature of participation via online technology is less nuanced and interactive than in-person, while the same technology makes it easy to recognise the valuable contribution of our sponsors.

Consequently, we have chosen a registration fee at one-third that of an in-person meeting and sponsorship levels at two-thirds.  Our recent survey included a question about fees (p88) and the answers from that while quite varied and imprecise, indicate that a fee in this range would be acceptable to most of the respondents.

As online participants have until now not had to pay a fee, there may be some for whom the fee presents a barrier to participation and so this budget includes a substantial increase in our fee waiver program to 100 early bird registrations.

Using these figures and estimating 1100 attendees spread across the various levels of fee (including 100 fee waivers), we get the following budget for an online IETF 108:

Registration Fees $221,750 Meeting Support (Labor, Travel, Misc) $295,360
Sponsorship $280,000 NOC Support, Hosting, Connectivity $191,629
Other (Venue Related) - Venue Costs -
Other (Bank Fees, Misc) $28,156
TOTAL $501,750 TOTAL $515,145

With this budget the net result is a small deficit of $13,395.

There are significant uncertainties in this model as we have yet to re-secure sponsors and we may have significantly over-estimated participation levels, and so there is the possibility that this model will need to be revisited after IETF 108, if we decide to run another fully online meeting.

Finally, please note that no decision has been made on whether or not a fee for online participation is needed when we return to in-person meetings.

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