Cutting the Cord on Expensive Hotel Internet Service

Travel Blog  •  Alexander Basek  •  02.05.09 | 4:01 PM ET

Thank you, Shangri-La Hotels, for breaking the cycle of expensive internet access. The hotel chain announced that it’s offering free Wi-Fi throughout its 60 properties as of, oh, right now. It’s about damn time—not at Shangri-La specifically, but for hotels in general to start offering this “service” for free, as it should be.

What’s galling is how the higher-end properties love to tack on this charge, while smaller one-off properties tend to give it away for free. It’s shortsighted and unrepresentative of how people travel: wouldn’t you prefer to have free internet access as opposed to free access to, say, Headline News? Not that we don’t all love Nancy Grace. Besides, I’m probably preaching to the internet choir here.

Still, it’s hard to forgo the internet when you work while you travel. I paid exorbitant internet fees many a time in 2008, and I’m sure it’ll happen again in ‘09. At the top of my list: a $15-a-day fee at the Grand Hotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. It’s a beautiful, historic hotel—James Bond even stayed there in Casino Royale—but it’s tough to feel as suave as Daniel Craig when you have to trudge downstairs for an ethernet cable first.

Alexander Basek is a food and travel writer based in New York City. He is the Best Deals reporter for Travel + Leisure. His writing has also appeared in the New York Post, Time Out New York, and Fodor's.

12 Comments for Cutting the Cord on Expensive Hotel Internet Service

Sophia Dembling 02.05.09 | 7:36 PM ET


The more expensive the hotel, the more they charge. Ridiculous.

Barbara - Krakow 02.06.09 | 8:53 AM ET

It is so true! And so amazing as I recently talked with my friend about that. We were talking about hotel reservation websites and important info that they should always provide - one of them is whether the Internet is charged separately or included in the room rate. And we also came to the same conclusion that the more expensive the stay in the hotel is, the more they charge you extra for the Internet. But I am sure it will change veeery soon.

long island girl 02.06.09 | 9:26 AM ET

It’s good that Shangri-La started to give free internet access. If they did, why can’t others do it as well. Hotels should let their customers feel they are given importance by not taking advantage on everything.

Sophia Dembling 02.06.09 | 12:21 PM ET

According the the USA Today story (in World Hum’s Morning Links today) about how hotels are struggling, some are starting to add Internet fees to compensate for dropping business. Yikes. Talk about a misguided plan…the more you nickel and dime people, the more resentful they get and that won’t do your business any good.

C-Dawg 02.06.09 | 12:25 PM ET

Hmmm. Small Hotel- easy to set up a wifi node that will cater to the handful of people wanting internet:  inexpensive for the hotel.

Big Hotel (with bitchy, entitled WorldHum types who demand that they be able to stream movies, check their 14 email accounts, skype to their buddies backpacking in Cambodia, etc) difficult, expensive, and taxing to set up a wifi system.  If the Big Hotel has anything less than a massive system, and it so much as hiccups while you are Facebooking, you are gonna blogblogblog about how the hotel sucks.

Why don’t you demand that the consultants that set up the system and maintain it work for free, too?

Of course the hotels are going to charge for it as long as they can.  They are entitled to.  And no they are not going to tell you in advance they are going to charge you, as it offers them no advantage to do so.  Wipe the tears off your keyboard and pay for the resources you use.

Sophia Dembling 02.06.09 | 12:40 PM ET

Have you looked at the cost of luxury hotels?

I don’t require wifi—I’m just as content to plug in. But Internet access is the new cable TV. It’s simply part of the cost of doing business for hotels these days. So I say, cut back on the fancy spas and give travelers what they need.

And when a system goes down, I’m just happy if I can reach someone with a clue, which often is not the case. Anyone who uses the Internet a lot knows systems have hiccups. I think you underestimate bitchy, entitled WorldHum types.

If La Quinta can do it, Ritz-Carlton can do it.

Helen Anders 02.06.09 | 12:54 PM ET

Sophie’s right, and the smart hotels know they’ll get more biz travelers if they offer free Internet. I can pass off the cost to my employer, but not every biz traveler can.

Even some luxury hotels are now offering free Internet. I just did a seven-day trip involving five hotels, all of which had free Internet. It all worked well, too, except in one hotel where I was on the top floor and thus too far from the router. (They had a free lobby computer, though; I used that.)

My biggest grip is that the hotels that DO charge for Internet have crummy connections. If I pay for something, I do want it to work.

Oh, and one more interesting note: Among the free Internet hotels was the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi. I figured they’d charge, preferring us to be downstairs gambling. But they made working easy. I appreciate it. (BTW, gambling is still very big with retirees—especially ones who smoke.)

C-Dawg 02.06.09 | 1:32 PM ET

>Internet access is the new cable TV.
- and hotels charge for certain channels.

> So I say, cut back on the fancy spas and give travelers what they need.
- what YOU need.  lots of travelers don’t use computers, like my mom and dad.  Your feeling is that they should bear a greater cost of the room so you can surf the web.  Besides, hotels do charge for the spa services- so the people who use that resource pay for it, bolstering my argument.

>the smart hotels know they’ll get more biz travelers if they offer free Internet.
- I’d say that’s correct for hotels of a certain class, but not the luxury ones where corporate types stay.

>some luxury hotels are now offering free Internet. I just did a seven-day trip involving five hotels, all of which had free Internet.
- Yes, those hotels probably charged for the internet until recently.  When their costs were covered, they probably realized they could get more small biz travelers and changed their policies to reflect it.

I just stayed a a bunch of nice hotels, and got free internet. Rouge in DC, Renaissance on Highland in Hollywood, some sweet-ass hotel above an old navy on Market & 4th in SF.

My point is that the Technology is a resource that has costs, and business must find a way to bear those costs.  right now, they are charging the minority that must have it, and therefore will pay it.

How about coffee in a diner? should that be free- a cost born by the diner to attract business?

Sophia Dembling 02.06.09 | 1:35 PM ET

Well, at diners here in the south, you get free refills on coffee and iced tea.

Eva Holland 02.06.09 | 8:00 PM ET

C-Dawg: I’m not sure your premise (Small Hotel vs Big Hotel) stands up. Luxury hotels aren’t always substantially larger than your average Super 8 / La Quinta / whatever. So how come a Super 8 in Alabama,that costs me $40 per night, will give me free wi-fi, while the $400 boutiquey joint in NYC, of a comparable size, wants to charge me $12 a day for the same service?

(And yeah, about that minority. I’m guessing there are more laptop users—read: business travelers, not just “bitchy, entitled WorldHum types”—in the NYC hotel than in the Muscle Shoals Super 8.)

Kit Cassingham 02.06.09 | 8:20 PM ET

What a relief! Maybe this action will have the flood gates open so other hotels will follow suit.

I attended a meeting in the Boston area in 2000, and one of the requirements for bringing the group to the hotel was to have high speed internet available. What a treat! It took a few years before high speed internet was an almost common hotel amenity. Now I hope this will lead the way to high speed internet being part of the standard amenities, without a charge.

I’d trade my individual soaps and shampoos for internet connectivity any day.

Hospitality Giants Look into Townships Too to Open 02.13.09 | 7:43 AM ET

Going by the increasing prospects in Hyderabad, hospitality giants are keen on bringing up hotel in Hyderabad in suitable and prime locations. The latest to join the band wagon are Hyatt.

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