The New York Times builds a story out of anecdotes that rings all too true: There aren't any numbers in this piece about how frequent business travelers find gaining Internet access a hit-and-miss proposition--do 50 percent of travelers surveyed by firm X have trouble in most stays? We don't know. But the stories presented are quite familiar. Although I haven't traveled much in the last couple of years, I've found that regardless of what a hotel promises, the truth is often sketchier. Two of my officemates, who produce book events, spent a couple of hours on the phone in a four-star Manhattan hotel recently trying to get online with the in-room service. They wound up at a Starbucks close by, instead.
It's odd that Wi-Fi is singled out; marginal connections are often an issue, but the problems I see are in authentication and network operation, not in signal strength or physical medium issues. The reporter also claims, "most large hotel chains work with dozens of Internet service providers, some of them small local operations, leading to an inconsistent service experience for guests." That's news to me, but it could be accurate. Hotels that manage their own access, such as chains that offer free service in their budget and medium-range properties, may be turning to local providers instead of building their own operations or working with a national services firm, like arms of Motorola, IBM, or HP, or with an hotspot infrastructure builder like iBahn (mentioned) or Wayport.