Kathy Gill encounters highway robbery in her hotel room: $14.95 per day, per machine: My colleague Kathy Gill is at the WWW2004 conference in New York, and has been astounded by the Sheraton's data charges: $14.95 per day for wireless access in the hotel, and another $14.95 per day per person for in-room access. She's peeved.
It's this irritation that could ultimately transform hotel Wi-Fi. If Kathy had $20 to $80 per month unlimited cell data access (anywhere from 10-50 Kbps up to a few hundred K download speed), even with the slower upload speeds of cellular networks, she might have foregone the $14.95 per day fee. In which case, how does the hotel recoup that money? They can't.
Take the alternative experience, in which my wife and I spent three nights on the Oregon Coast this last week. I wasn't working, and just wanted to briefly check my email on the road. The first night, we stayed at an older motel in the process of becoming a resort. For $9.95, I could have had wireless service, but I didn't need to spend that much. My ISP lacked an 800# and local numbers on the coast. I wound up using my GSM (9600 bps -- yes, bits per second) cell phone service which on Cingular's network comes out of my minutes pool.
Next night, again with no concern about access, we chose a hotel that was about 30 percent cheaper and claimed wireless Internet access for free. Ah, but not in the cheaper part of the hotel. I didn't need access badly enough to roam to the part of the hotel in which I could get service, so I turned again to the cell phone.
The third night, we stayed at a Best Western in a small town. The room was nice, the rate was 30 percent less than the second night's, and the deal included free in-room wired broadband and free breakfast. Guess which hotel I'll choose first next time? All Best Westerns will soon have free in-room broadband--as will most budget hotel chains around the U.S.
Hotels that charge for service might find their high-end customers turning to cell data as that becomes more available and less expensive--or losing customers to the cheaper chains.
(Our first and last nights of our trip were spent at my brother-in-laws and my parents'--both of which offered free Wi-Fi throughout the property.)