Wifi art thou

20 Aug 2014

Right now I'm in South East Asia, not staying at a 5-star hotel but a very modest 3-star. 

There is a peep-hole in the door which isn't unusual, but it's largely superfluous as the 6 inch crack in the wall next to the door offers a much better view.  The wiring around my bedside table lamp isn't what you'd call safe either.

Without enough money to make the wiring insulated, or the walls hole-proof, this hotel has made a decision that many New Zealand hotels refuse to... Internet access is free and unmetered. They just gave me the wifi password on check in and I was on my way. 

And it's GOOD!  I've not only read email and used the web, but made VoIP calls to home.  It would probably even have been good enough to stream NetFlix if it was available here. 

They are getting it right. 

As opposed to the hotel I stayed in in Auckland the previous night. That hotel didn't have free Internet, I had to login through a portal and they wanted to charge me for my usage. 

A colleague and I visited four hotels in this city yesterday as part of a scouting mission for a future tech conference. They were all 5-star establishments and parts of well-known chains. Without exception, unmetered Internet was included in the room rates. While not the absolute deal-breaker, unmetered guest room Internet is something that is a major factor in venue consideration.

New Zealand hotels are getting this wrong. 

When you stay in a hotel, you get water and electricity as part of your room rate. If a hotel tried to charge extra for such amenities, their business would not hang around too long. It should be the same with Internet access. 

There is little difference between the Internet and the electricity and water we use. Bill it as such. It's not a Snickers bar, a can of Pringles or an oddly sized bottle of gin from the minibar.  

If you have to charge, and I think it's ridiculous, then build the cost into room rates. Only offer rates with no Internet if you also offer cheaper room rates with no electricity.  People can after all bring their own torches or candles.  That's what hotels force us to do when they charge $30 a day for metered Internet. 

So today I'd like to make a stand. I’m calling on all New Zealand hotel and event facilities to offer unmetered Internet as part of their quoted rates. I’ll be working with my colleagues at InternetNZ to turn this into a bigger campaign.  Unmetered Internet access will also become one of the criteria which we use to assess hotels that InternetNZ may wish to do business with.

Better access to the Internet for travellers is one small thing we can work on that will go towards our mission of actively promoting an Open Internet.