Hotels' High-Speed Internet Often Has A Catch

from the not-quite-there-yet dept

I've written before about difficulties I've had in the past couple of years with traveling and trying to find hotels that offer high speed internet access (preferably wireless). I always tell hotels that it's a huge factor in my decision making process, and it sounds like others are saying the same thing. Hotels are finally starting to come through. However, even if they offer access it's not always so easy to get it to work. My parents were recently visiting, and stayed at a hotel that advertised "free" internet access, but when my father tried to plug in his laptop it didn't work. The front desk told him (incorrectly, of course) that it was because his laptop had a WiFi wireless card that was "blocking" the ethernet cable from working. We eventually figured out the problem (bad cable) and everything was fine. However, the story is certainly not unique. Many travelers say that each hotel has a different system with different requirements - sometimes involving special hardware or software. There's also all sorts of different pricing policies (something that's carried over from the WiFi hotspot world), which are both confusing and annoying to many potential users. Interestingly, the article suggests that many hotels are going to feel compelled to offer high speed internet access as a "free" utility within a year or so, as other hotels do the same. Since hotels were considered "captive audience" locations, many in the wireless hotspot industry had been saying that it was one location that could make money off of hotspots. Maybe not.

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  1. identicon
    August Jackson, 22 Jul 2003 @ 5:14am

    Technical info at the hotspot

    After my own experiences in hotels and coffeeshops I am convinced that a huge obstacle to hotspots making any money is going to be the ability of the front line staff to understand just some basics of the service. One way to combat this requirement is with decent collateral at the site that explains what one needs to do in order to connect, but hotspot companies and hotspot operators seem clueless about this necessary element of the service.

    An example of this is a hotel I stayed at on my last trip to London. I chose this specific hotel because it was on a list of BT OpenZone hot spots. I arrive at the hotel, plug in my WiFi card and run a search and find no WiFi networks available. I ask at the front desk and the clerk looks at me like I'm an idiot at explains... very slooooowly... that in order to get the Internet to work I need to plug my computer into the phone. After several attempts to explain the concept of WiFi, hotspots and the fact that he was working at one such hotspot it became clear he was not getting the concept. So I gave up. I looked for collateral, brochures, anything, about hot to find the BT OpenZone hotspot to no avail. Not until I was checking out and a display of magazines on a counter off by the elevators happened to fall over as I walked past did I see a single BT OpenZone brocher behind this display. I nabbed the brochure and discovered the network I would have needed to search for (BT OpenZone do not broadcast the network ID) in order to get onto the OpenZone website to activate the account. Amazing.

    This is just one very long-winded example of the failings of the staff at a specific hotspot and the shortcomings of staff and collateral in said environment. Since I'm interested in this sort of thing I also ask a lot of questions at coffeeshops, airports and other hotspots with similar results. I consider myself not entirely clueless when it comes to technology, so I can only imagine what most people face when they try to take advantage of this technology. Until WiFi approaches the ease of use of say a mobile phone the average user is just going to be unable to make use of WiFi.

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