Hotel operators: Free wi-fi is no longer an option

Summary:It's hard to believe that many hotels still don't offer free wi-fi. Some don't have wi-fi at all, or have wi-fi that barely works at exorbitant rates.

Hotel desk

This weekend didn't start out according to plan. Instead of sitting in my condo, I am sitting in a nice hotel room. This unexpected trip, the result of a massive water leak, is undoubtedly the shortest in history. It involved a 50-foot walk from my apartment building to the hotel down the street.

I didn't have a choice of hotels given I simply needed a place to stay for a couple of days. But if I did have a chance to shop around as many business travellers do, the hotel's web site noting that "high-speed internet" is available in every room might have pulled me in.

Of course, the lack of the word "free" in that blurb tells the whole story. While the hotel does offer a free level of internet service, it's not very good. It hardly works at all.

That's why the hotel offers not one paid level of internet service but two. That's right, there's a two-tier internet service available at increasing cost. The most expensive is $20 per day, an exorbitant fee designed to grab the business traveller who can't be disconnected no matter the cost. It's probably going to be expensed to the company anyway.

The problem is, and frequent travellers have surely seen this too many times, paying the exorbitant fee doesn't guarantee fast connectivity. It sometimes doesn't guarantee consistent connectivity at all. That's the case here according to two guests in this hotel complaining about how bad the wi-fi is. They each paid the big bucks and then couldn't do much of anything.

That leaves each of them in the nasty limbo of having little or no service and no one to complain to. The employees at the front desk can't help, the internet service is contracted by a third party. There's a phone number for that but don't expect remote assistance to get the service to actually work. These guys were told to lump it in a nice way. Too many guests, blah, blah, blah.

Sadly, this is a common situation that frequent business travellers have to deal with. It can be a big problem as being connected is no longer an option in business, it's now expected. That's why savvy travellers use good, free connectivity as the main criteria for choosing a hotel. 

iPad tether
Bandwidth in hotel room using iPad mini as personal hotspot after foregoing abysmal hotel wi-fi.

They look for phrases on the hotel's web site like "free high-speed internet in each room" or "throughout the hotel". If it just says "high-speed internet" chances are it's only in the lobby or other common areas. Believe it or not there are still many hotels without connectivity in the hotel rooms.

That's not acceptable anymore as connectivity has become important to most everyone. Even those travelling on personal trips have tablets, phones, and Kindles to get online. Being in a hotel without any connectivity is like dropping into a void for lots of travellers.

So please, hotel operators, get wi-fi working well in all of your rooms. Make sure it's beefy enough to handle a full hotel. Blanket your entire establishment with it, and perhaps most importantly stop charging an arm and a leg for it. If you don't get your guests online with good speed and for free, you just might find repeat business dropping off. Connectivity is becoming very important to a large segment of the population and you'd better serve it up properly.

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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