Hotels Are Charging Even More for What Should Be Free
What could be more absurd than paying a surcharge for a wireless Internet connection at your hotel?
Paying even more for a wireless Internet connection at your hotel.
But that's exactly what more travelers are being asked to do when they open their laptops after checking in. A "regular" Wi-Fi connection typically costs about
"I pay for the upgrade every time because the difference is so extreme," says Guarino, a business consultant.
Let's take a little time-out, here. In the 21st century, wireless Internet access is a basic utility, like electricity or indoor plumbing. Charging extra for a connection that ought to be included with the price of your room reminds me of the avaricious motels in the 1970s that added a
But the hotel industry is serious about this. I saw it just last week when I checked into a Hilton family property in
The hotel industry begs to differ with me. Back in 2004, properties needed to upgrade their wireless systems, so they turned to guests to pay for the needed routers and modems. The idea caught on, says
"Today, as bandwidth needs are exponentially outpacing bandwidth availability in many areas, the tiered approach is becoming more widely accepted and endorsed," he says. "We have serviced more than 700 hotels and more than 80 percent of them have employed the speed upgrade option."
Wieland makes a valid point. Internet bandwidth is a limited resource for a hotel. It might only have 50 megabits per second of bandwidth available that must be shared among guests. Doesn't it make sense that guests who are willing to pay more should also get more?
Under such a scenario, the premium guests would get a fast 5 megabits per second connection, while the garden-variety travelers would be throttled to 1 megabit per second, which is still considerably faster than a dial-up connection.
Still, the notion that you should pay for a basic utility is ridiculous. Paying even more for it is a little like paying extra to make sure there's water 24 hours a day, or that the electricity doesn't get turned off in your hotel room. It's not exactly the same thing, but close enough.
I didn't go for the upgraded connection on my last hotel stay. I don't want to encourage them. Current "take" rates -- an industry term for people who buy the faster connection -- are about 3 percent for "free" wireless networks and 15 percent for paid ones, according to Wieland.
It could be a losing fight. Although some forward-looking, guest-friendly hotel chains never charge for wireless access, many more do. And many more will, if we start paying the speed premium, according to frequent traveler and travel blogger
"I think it's going to be the way of the future," he says.
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